Correcting a serious curve in your back

November 10, 2011 2:40:39 PM PST
Look in the mirror do you see a slight curve on your back? Three percent of us have scoliosis.

It's a minor problem for most people, but for some children. It's severe and requires treatment.

One woman's amazing transformation after spending decades bent in half.

At 39, Julie Flores enjoys the little things in life, but it wasn't too long ago Julia's routine was a lot different.

"I just felt like it was painful, it was no fun," Julie Flores said.

It started with a head tilt at the age of five. By the time Julia turned 8, her upper body was bent almost in half. She was diagnosed with dystonia, a movement disorder that causes involuntary muscle spasms. By then severe scoliosis had set in too.

"I'll never forget one comment someone made of a high school boy who saw her and said oh look at that giraffe," Lidia Flores said.

By the time Julia hit 30 -- even house work caused unimaginable pain. Then, her mom found Dr. Frank Acosta.

"Hers was an extreme case where her spine was essentially shaped like an S," Acosta, director of Spinal Deformaty Cedar-Sinai, said. "This is a pretty severe case. One of the worst I have ever seen."

After two operations, Acosta placed screws down Julia's spine with help from computer navigation. The goal was to take some pressure off her lung, organs and nerves and realign her spine. After 9 weeks at the hospital and 4 months of physical therapy, success.

"I sat next to her and Julie was I think two inches taller than me," Lidia said.

"When I got up and I sat up, I was like wow," Julie said.

Julia can now stand up straight for the first time in 31 years.

"I feel like god gave me this whole brand new life again," Julie said.

Eventually bone will grow up and down Julie's spine over the rods that were surgically implanted. The years of compression caused some damage to her lungs, but Julie is now almost pain-free.