A young woman who was treated for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis at Shriners Hospital for Children, Honolulu has formed a support group to share her story and inspire other patients with scoliosis.
Ayumi Sakamoto, 19, was diagnosed with a 34-degree curvature of her spine when she was 14 years old.
“I was pretty shocked,” she said. “I didn’t realize that I had this condition, and it went unnoticed for so long.”
Sakamoto has played competitive golf since she was 7 years old and made the difficult decision to not play during her 8th grade school year so she could wear a brace 23 hours per day.
Pediatric orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Paul Moroz, said while doctors don’t know what causes adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, girls have a greater likelihood to develop the orthopedic condition. Dr. Moroz said treatment for scoliosis often includes observation, bracing or surgery. Sakamoto, he said, was fortunate to get the brace when she did.
“If she hadn’t received treatment, there’s a good chance her curve would have gotten bigger, and it might have gotten to the point where she could have required an operative procedure.”
Dr. Moroz said a brace doesn’t reverse the curve, but stops it from getting worse while the child is growing, as was the case for Sakamoto.
Sakamoto said it was tough not playing golf with her peers for a year, but she’s glad she did. During her treatment, she took yoga classes at the hospital. The classes helped her body remain limber and strong while also supporting her emotionally.
“My surgeons don’t treat me like a patient,” she said. “They treat me like a person and went above and beyond at little to no cost. Honolulu Shriners Hospital doesn’t even feel like a hospital. It feels like a supportive family.”
Sakamoto graduated from Iolani School in 2015 and now plays competitive golf at Carlton College in Minnesota.
Learn more on the Shriners Hospitals for Children Honolulu website.