How to spot signs of scoliosis in your child — Metro Detroit teenager shares her story

CHESTERFIELD CITY, Mich. – Rayeann Deriemacker was just a kindergartener when her pediatrician first spotted signs of scoliosis.

“Rayeann was 5 and we did her spa visit to her pediatrician,” said her mother, Michelle Deriemacker. “And he said, ‘I really think there’s a possibility here that she has scoliosis.'”

Scoliosis is a condition that causes the spine to curve abnormally sideways, into an “S” or “C” shape. There are different levels of severity, but spotting the red flags is the crucial first step.

“Her turn was like 35 degrees, so she was already pretty strong,” Deriemacker said.

For some children, doctors can simply monitor the spine as they grow.

Others, as in Rayeann’s case, require braces to stop or slow progression. She admits it was a challenge at times.

“It’s like hard plastic all around your body. It’s very uncomfortable,” Rayeann said. “It was pretty tough from the back braces and wearing them to school and sleeping in them and all day every day.”


But Rayeann didn’t let that stop her from leading an active life and even entering dance competitions for several years.

“Her curve was still advancing, but she was advancing more slowly. When she needed surgery, she had a 75-degree curve and it was starting to affect her lungs and breathing,” Deriemacker said.

dr Ahmed Bazi is Rayeann’s surgeon at Michigan Children’s Hospital.

“All the bracing that she underwent bought her time so when she was ready for the surgery it was really a one-time surgery,” Bazi said.

When Rayeann was 11, she underwent a spinal fusion.

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“It was a very intense time before the operation,” said Deriemacker. “And then during the surgery we just held our breath and we prayed and we said to Dr. Bazi believed.”

“Very scared,” Rayeann said. “I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to do all the things that my friends did. I would be left out and no longer feel like I belonged.”


Rayeann, 14, says her family and close friends have supported her through the long months of recovery.

“My one friend gave me FaceTime every day at school lunch so I could still see and talk to everyone,” she said.

Rayeann can’t dance like she used to, but she has a renewed love for volleyball and a deep appreciation for all that she has overcome. This includes the scar running down her back.

“A lot of people notice, and some people ask questions, which I’m happy to tell them,” Rayeann said. “I feel like it’s more of a sign that I’ve been able to do it and just remembering it. It’s cool.”

“I couldn’t be prouder,” said Deriemacker. “It will make me cry. She did great. He gave her such a gift. He is unbelievable. She’s amazing going through recovery. It was very hard.”

Scoliosis can affect all ages, but the most common age at onset is between 10 and 15 years of age when children are growing rapidly.


Bazi said there are usually no symptoms, so it’s important to look out for signs.

“If you’re looking for signs of scoliosis, that’s usually the time of year or time to see it,” Bazi said. “Here are boys and girls in bathing suits or outside or playing in the sprinkler and then you finally see their backs. So we look for signs like uneven shoulders, a raised shoulder blade, sort of a rib hump, her hips or her sides are uneven or basically tilted one way or the other, or sometimes even her pelvis is a little bit uneven. ”

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There is concern that many cases of scoliosis may have been missed during the pandemic as fewer children were seeing their pediatricians for visits to healthy children. Experts say this also underscores the importance of continuing annual visits once children are in their tweens or teens.

Rayeann’s mum hopes her story will raise awareness about scoliosis.


“Hopefully someone can spot it early on through their history, and they might not have to end up with spinal fusion,” Deriemacker said.

Rayeann hopes that sharing her experiences can help encourage children to deal with the challenges of scoliosis.

“When I think back to the time I needed surgery, there wasn’t really anything I could look up on YouTube or anything on social media,” Rayeann said. “Being able to show little kids that it’s okay and that it’s something they can do.”

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