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news News Monday, July 29, 2019 Monday, July 29, 2019 2:11 PM - Monday, July 29, 2019 2:11 PM

High-flying cheerleader doesn't let scoliosis keep her down

Savannah's story

High-flying cheerleader doesn't let scoliosis keep her down

Savannah, a 17-year-old patient at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Portland, was at cheerleading practice when she first suspected that something was wrong with her back. After a “flying” stunt in the air, her teammates said that her back didn’t feel normal when they caught her. Her coach, who was familiar with scoliosis, took a look at Savannah’s back and immediately noticed a curve.

“During this time, I was in a severe amount of pain, experienced numbing in my legs, and was having trouble breathing,” said Savannah. “I would take frequent breaks during cheer practice and I would have to do everything differently. I remember going home and crying almost every day after practice because it hurt so much and I felt like my body was giving up on me.”

Right away, Savannah and her parents visited her primary care provider in Grants Pass, Oregon. During her appointments, she interacted with a few medical staff who didn’t believe that Savannah, 15 years old at the time, was in pain. Despite that, she was referred to Shriners Hospitals for Children — Portland and had a consultation with Daniel Bouton, M.D., in December of 2018, who recommended immediate surgery. He explained that the surgery was both corrective and preventative. The surgery would straighten the curve of her spine and also prevent the curve and twist of her spine from further altering her rib cage and restricting her lungs and heart, which was causing the difficulty in her breathing. Savannah underwent surgery in April of 2019.

“My surgery wasn’t scary at all, I was super excited,” said Savannah. “I even brought in my panda pillow pet. All of the nurses were so kind when I was recovering and always had a smile on their face or a joke to tell – even when it was 3 a.m.! I felt so welcomed, and they helped me with everything I had to do, and they even let my best friend come visit me while I was recovering, which made me feel infinitely better.”

“Savannah is a shining example for all patients who receive the diagnosis of scoliosis,” said Dr. Bouton. “She was incredibly self-motivated to heal and get back to cheerleading. Savannah doesn’t let her scoliosis define her, and she doesn’t let it slow her down. Whenever Savannah comes in for an appointment, I always know it’s going to be a good day because her positive energy is infectious!”

After a successful surgery and gradual increase in her level of activity, Savannah recently had her three month post-surgery appointment, and was approved for more physical activity in cheerleading. Savannah first became involved with cheerleading in elementary school, and then became junior varsity captain during her second season of high school cheer. “I love so many things about cheerleading,” said Savannah. “I love representing my school at home games and away games, and being responsible for school spirit! It’s also amazing to push the limits of my body and see myself stretch and become stronger and more flexible.”

Savannah is now looking forward to cheerleading tryouts in August as she’s heading in to her senior year of high school. She is expected to have a full recovery and be able to do all the activities that she loved in cheer. In addition to continuing her hobbies of cheerleading, art, writing and shopping, Savannah is hoping to study business administration in college after she graduates from high school. “I can’t wait to see where I end up next!” she said.

Savannah cheering