A Fife youngster has shown just why equipment matters as the world marked International Scoliosis Day at the weekend.
Every year Newlife, a charity for disabled children, provides specialist equipment and support to help thousands of disabled and terminally ill children, many of whom have scoliosis.
And it has helped young Emelia McDonough from Glenrothes.
Emelia was born prematurely at 25 weeks and shortly after birth contracted a life threatening infection and needed emergency surgery to remove part of her bowel.
Such a traumatic start left Emelia with severe brain damage and she is unable to walk or sit without support and is even unable to carry the weight of her own head.
Due to this lack of muscular support, Emalia was at serious risk of developing scoliosis.
Emelia’s mum Lorraine said it took the family a long time to get some functional seating from the local authority.
“But Emelia could only sit in it for short periods of time because she has to work really hard to keep her little body in that position,” she said.
“Because of her condition she should have a clear 24 hour postural care plan reducing the risk of scoliosis developing in her spine – but without the right equipment it just isn’t possible.”
Scoliosis affects around four in 1,000 children in the UK.
The condition, which causes a prominent curve in the spine, causes pain, inflexibility and in extreme cases can result in the internal organs being crushed.
In some cases, surgery is needed to insert rods into the spine but specialist equipment such as walking frames, wheelchairs and specialist seating systems can delay the need for surgery and, in some cases, even help slow the onset of the condition.
For children suffering from scoliosis, having the right equipment can make a huge difference to everyday life.
Earlier this year Newlife launched a public appeal for funding and has now successfully raised the money needed to buy Emelia a P Pod, a specialist seat.
Lorraine said: “She is clearly in a lot less pain now – she saw the physiotherapist and they were really happy with how well she is doing and the shape of her spine.
“And Emelia just loves it – it is just the most wonderful thing to see her happy, she’s able to play with her little brother now, which she couldn’t do before.”
Newlife’s consultant nurse, Karen Dobson, said: “The right kind of postural support can reduce the likelihood of conditions deteriorating and additional conditions like scoliosis from occurring – and of course can reduce the need for invasive surgery further down the road.”