Surgery helps young girl with extreme spinal curve

MARINA DEL REY, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Scoliosis is usually a mild condition until it gets severe.

Reese Thielbar's spine was curved at 92 degrees.

"My rib cage was popped out on my back," she said.

The hump on the 14 year old's spine protruded when she bent.

"And the only way I would try to hide that - I would wear hoodies and jackets and sweaters," said Thielbar.

In time, it would interfere with her ability to breathe.

Doctors said it should have been treated earlier. Thielbar was diagnosed with scoliosis at age 7 and it kept progressing.

Eventually, her grandparents took her to a chiropractor who specialized in non-surgical treatment.

"The traction chair was $4,200. She has to sit in that twice a day 30 minutes, tied and strapped down with weights pulling her," said Lauri St. Cyr, Thielbar's grandmother.

And the whole time Thielbar underwent the chiropractic exercises and manipulations, doctors said her spine got increasingly worse.

"I feel bad for Reese, because it never should have never progressed this far. And there is no scientific evidence to show emergency traction or traction or manipulation is going to stop the curve from progressing," said Dr. Hooman Melamed, orthopedic surgeon at Marina Del Rey Hospital.

According to Dr. Melamed, Reese was no longer a candidate for less invasive, non-fusion techniques. She underwent a six-hour surgery to painstakingly straighten her spine section by section. Other doctors had refused to even try.

"We had to start slowly dialing it in move the spine over, and then had to put a rod on this side to push it further over," said Melamed.

Less than a week after her surgery, Thielbar was walking around. Dr. Melamed expected her to resume all the activities she loves.

"Her back is flat. She's a whole new person," said St. Cyr.

"I'm going back to softball, start playing sports now," said Thielbar.

She tells others not to delay: Do the research and find the right care.
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