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It wasn’t Cyntell's curving spine that was pressing on her lungs that hurt her worst. It was the bullying she received at school. At age 11, Cyntell was diagnosed with scoliosis, a curvature of the spine. “I noticed as she was getting dressed one morning that her back was twisting,” said Cyntell’s mother, Vonuya. She took Cyntell to her pediatrician who was quite concerned about the curvature and referred her to Shriners Hospitals for Children — Greenville for treatment.

When orthopaedic surgeon Michael Mendelow, M.D., evaluated Cyntell, he discovered her curve had already progressed to a dangerous 103 degrees. In fact, her spine was already curved so much her breathing function was restricted. Dr. Mendelow says, “Without surgery to straighten and fuse her spine, Cyntell’s spine would continue to curve more and more, causing progressive restriction on lung function, as well as increasing change in body shape, physical appearance and self-image.”

By the time Cyntell was referred to the Greenville Shriners Hospital, her misshapen back was not just noticeable to her parents; the hump on her right side was also obvious to her peers at school. “I was bullied badly. It took away any positive thoughts I had,” says Cyntell. Her mother recalls, “The bullying took away all of my daughter’s confidence. She didn't want to do anything anymore.”

At the Greenville Shriners Hospital, Dr. Mendelow performed a successful life-changing surgery to straighten 15-year-old Cyntell’s spine. With rods, hooks and screws in place, Cyntell’s curve was straightened to 42 degrees. Following the surgery, physically, Cyntell’s shoulders and hips were now even and her back was flat.

The surgery not only made a difference in her appearance – it also made a difference in her outlook in many ways. Cyntell explains, “Before my surgery, I did not have an outlet for my emotions. Through my recovery, I discovered a whole new side of myself. I found out I like writing poetry, music and singing.” With her new found confidence, when Cyntell returned to school, she discovered that many other kids at her high school also had scoliosis, but had been hiding it to avoid bullying. “Cyntell began telling the other kids about her journey. She explained what she went through and the kids began treating her like a celebrity! She’s on top of the world now,” says her mom.

Poised, articulate and exuding confidence, Cyntell sums up her experience saying, “Shriners Hospitals for Children — Greenville and Dr. Mendelow really changed my life. At the hospital I met other children with the same condition, I was healed and I got my confidence back. The Greenville Shriners Hospital is so different from anything you can imagine. They welcome you with open arms. You feel safe. This hospital gives you love.”

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