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Keziah: Bent spine changed my life

Scoliosis is  a condition in which a person’s spine  is curved from side to side into an ‘s’ shape, causing abnormal posture in a person.

The cause of scoliosis is not always known but can be due to a spinal injury, disease or birth defect.

Signs and effects of the condition include shortened limbs especially legs, uneven musculature, and prominent body parts, for instance, a prominent  shoulder blade or rib.

In very severe cases, the curve of the spine limits the functionality of the heart and lungs, which can lead to death.

Common in girls

According to the Scoliosis Research Society, the disease, which surprisingly is not painful can affect anyone but is most common in adolescent girls.

One such girl is Keziah Wanjau who was diagnosed with scoliosis in June 2006 at the age 14.  Knowing she had the condition changed her life and that of her family.

“We did not realise how serious the condition was until a doctor recommended surgery. This is because my spine was developing an ‘s’ curve,” said Keziah.

Fortunately, her mother, Mary Wanjau had earlier met Dr Muoki Mutiso, a surgeon at Nairobi Hospital and told  him about her daughter’s condition.

“He told my mum that they were expecting a team of doctors from the US to come and conduct knee and back surgeries at Kenyatta National Hospital but he was not sure whether a spinal surgeon would be among them,” added Keziah.

In September 2006, the foreign surgeons flew in and fortunately, Keziah had her condition assessed by the team.

They decided that she needed corrective surgery, which was quickly scheduled.

Her spine was fitted with metal rods to prevent it from damaging her internal organs in case the curve progressed further.

In Africa, this kind of surgery is done in Egypt or South Africa and can cost up to Sh2 million.

“We were relieved of that kind of financial burden as we spent less than Sh300,000 for the surgery,” she said.

Even after surgery, Keziah cannot run  fast or walk long distances. She also became conscious of her body.

“I withdrew from social life and became a loner but over time I realised that I could overcome all this. It was then that I started my scoliosis awareness campaign,” she said.