Posted by: Duke Raleigh Hospital | March 22, 2013

Back in Action; a new posture and outlook for one high school senior

By Lloyd Hey, MD

Ashley Taylor is a 17-year-old who had Scheuermann’s kyphosis. I operated on her last May, and her mom, Crystal, updated me recently on her progress. I think it’s worth sharing … and celebrating.

Before and after surgery

Scheuermann’s kyphosis is a condition in which the vertebrae grow unevenly, resulting in a wedge or humpback shape to the back. The disease cannot be self corrected. As Crystal points out in her letter, surgery is sometimes the prescribed treatment for the condition.

Severe low and mid-level back and pain and neck pain are hallmarks of the condition. The pain is often aggravated by physical exertion and long periods of sitting or standing. And, as you might guess; sports – either as a participant or a spectator – are an important part of life for most high school students. Ashley’s condition made it difficult for her to cheer on her team.

Plus, the curvature of the back decreases height and puts pressure on internal organs. So it’s much more than a cosmetic problem. It can be extremely painful.

In her letter, Crystal said:

[Ashley] is now almost nine months post-surgery and nearing the end of her senior year and very busy. Most amazingly, she’s not had to take even a Tylenol or ibuprofen for back pain this year. No more low back pain or neck pain at the end of a school day.

Sitting on bleachers for sporting events used to really aggravate her back as well as make her very self-conscious about her hump-backed appearance. She now does this with no problems, and her posture is near perfect. Ashley’s primary consideration for surgery was increasing discomfort, but as her parents, Johnny and I now know that it was affecting her emotionally more than she was admitting. We had all become quite used to Ashley’s posture before surgery, and it was only after surgery … that we realized just how much of a deformity she had prior. Since surgery, I have caught her in a full-length mirror just staring at her back and posture and remarking that she can’t believe it has been corrected.

Our thankfulness to you, in addition to Leslie, the entire OR staff, your office staff and Duke Raleigh Hospital cannot be adequately put into words … From our first visit in your office in 2008, we knew we had found the right physician for Ashley, and we are forever grateful to you for your care and compassion. You always took the time to answer our questions in great detail, and we never felt rushed. Further, we were relieved to find that you were not just surgery happy.

I cannot close without commenting on Duke Raleigh Hospital. Ashley’s entire care team was amazing. Their knowledge, medical care, and compassion was unsurpassable. It was truly a humbling experience. We can honestly say that we did not have even the slightest issue with any part of her care. We never encountered a moody personality, a lazy spirit, a rushed demeanor or a pass the buck to the next shift attitude. The staff was both professional and personable.

The Duke Raleigh staff joins me – from our own proverbial bleachers – in cheering Ashley on. We love helping patients reclaim their lives.

Dr. Hey blogs regularly; read his posts at

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