Four years ago, The Abaconian did a feature on four young women on Abaco living with a condition called scoliosis, which affects the spine.
One of those women was Joanne Brave.
To date, Joanne is the only one of them who has not received therapy, bracing or surgery to correct her condition.
According to Mayoclinic.org, scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine that occurs most often during the growth spurt just before puberty particularly in females. Although the cause of most scoliosis is unknown, it can stem from conditions such as cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy.
The spine appears to be straight in a person with a normal spine when viewed from the front or back; however, with a person who has scoliosis, when viewed from the front or back, the spine appears to be curved. People with scoliosis are identified by their uneven shoulders, a prominent shoulder blade, uneven waist, leaning to one side, or one hip higher than the other causing them to become more self-conscious about their appearance.
For those who are treated early on, they can sometimes avoid surgery, and the worst-case scenario: death. In some cases, scoliosis can affect childbirth in females.
Scoliosis curves are initially detected on school screening exams, by a child’s pediatrician or family doctor, or by a parent. The person then undergoes a careful bone examination, and an X-ray to evaluate the magnitude of the curve. Surgery is considered for those whose spinal curves measure greater than 40 degrees; however, bracing is the usual treatment option.
Joanne’s is considered to have a severe case of scoliosis with the curvature of her spine measuring at an astounding 80 degrees.
Complications for people with scoliosis can result in lung and heart damage because in severe scoliosis, the rib cage may press against the lungs and heart. This makes it more difficult to breathe and harder for the heart to pump. Then there are chronic back problems experienced by adults who have had scoliosis since they were children.
Severe scoliosis can be disabling, which Joanne knows all too well at the age of 22. Because of her debilitating condition, she is unable to work.
Although Joanne can recall having scoliosis for as long as she can remember, she has noticed over the past three years that she has developed breathing issues, and is now encountering pain that she has never experienced before.
Since 2015, she has been eager to undergo surgery at the Princess Margaret Hospital, but says she was given the runaround so many times that she pursued other options and facilities for surgery. Unfortunately, Joanne missed out on the opportunity to meet with surgeons from Atlanta, who used to travel to Nassau frequently to offer free surgery in support of the Crippled Children’s Fund for local children.
With an 80-degree curvature of her spine, therapy is not an option. She was recently granted Bahamian citizenship in August, which also impeded her opportunity to travel outside of the country to seek medical help.
She can no longer delay surgery.
To prepare herself, Joanne has spoken to a few people who have had surgery, and they were very positive in their response, she said.
“I know after the surgery there will be pain, but it’s all for the better so I don’t worry about it,” she expressed. “I don’t think about what can go wrong. I don’t think about the negativity of it all. I am just leaving it in God’s hands.”
Joanne said that she is treating her condition as an urgent matter, and has set a deadline for December of this year to acquire the funds necessary for surgery.
“So the beginning of next year, I can proceed with the process,” she announced. “I don’t even have 10 percent of the money as yet, but I have faith that God is going to do it.”
Fundraising initiatives for Joanne include a GoFundMe account ( https://www.gofundme.com/joanne-braves-scoliosis-fund ) where donations can be made online, or people can donate locally to her or Canishka Alexander.
Her goal is to raise $25,000, which will cover the surgery itself, 12 days of hospital stay, two days of ICU, medical fees, laboratories, radiology and anesthesia. She still has to cover airfare, hotel accommodation, food and medication outside the hospital and food and lodging for a companion to travel with her.
Some of her friends have been assisting her with selling T-shirts to also raise awareness about scoliosis, and she has sent out sponsorship requests to churches and businesses.
“The shirts I am selling are to raise awareness and money for my surgery. I have also created a Facebook page called ‘Emergency Funding for Joanne Scoliosis Surgery’, and I want to start posting scoli-facts on there,” Joanne explained. “Because of my experience with scoliosis, I want to be there for people who are finding it hard to get treatment, and I want to develop an organization where I can help people like me.”
Throughout her journey, Joanne has observed that although scoliosis is a common condition, not many people are aware of it.
“For some people, it’s so mild, so they never know they have scoliosis,” she reasoned. “When I was younger, I thought I was the only person with scoliosis, but now everywhere I go, I meet someone with scoliosis.”
A donation box has also been placed at various stores and event venues to spread the word.
“My family and friends have been very supportive, and a few of the churches I went to were very nice and welcoming. I’m still waiting for calls from some of them regarding sponsorship,” she explained.
“I would like to say thank you to Canishka because I always said if it hadn’t been for her when she did that first interview, I would have never been interested in getting surgery because for all I knew, I thought it was impossible.
“Thank you to Minister David Fincher and the members of the Marsh Harbour Church of Christ so much because the minute I knocked on his door, my situation became their situation, and for that I am so grateful. I also want to thank my friends who have been helping me during this journey and motivating me, and last but not least, thank you to the Most High God for always providing for me and being present in my life.”