Alder Hey patient Macey and her body-positive message to young people after 9 hour operation
3 years ago
Alder Hey patient Macey Brooks is walking tall after a nine-hour operation to correct an 80-degree curve in her spine.
The 18-year-old has ‘grown’ an extra two-and-a-half inches after the surgery at Alder Hey Hospital which involved placing two metal rods and 20 pins into her back.
Although she’s still recovering Macey is delighted with the results which will end six years of pain.
And, while she thanked ‘the incredible staff’ at the world-famous hospital, she also sent out a message to young people like her: “In a world dominated by the perfect image, don’t allow your body to become your insecurity.
“Having lived with scoliosis for all of my teenage years, I am so thankful to my amazing surgeon and the staff at Alder Hey who carried out my corrective spinal operation.
“That’s why I wanted to get the message out,” says Macey, “that you can achieve everything you want and you should never let anything change that.
“I have achieved well in school, and I wouldn’t allow my condition to govern my life or stop me doing anything, or make me insecure. I was head girl at school and I’ve got uni offers to study media and communications, or marketing. My dream is to be on telly or in broadcasting.
“Of course I would have told my younger self not to be so self-conscious! But, I see younger friends who are so body-conscious, and I want to remind them that no-one is perfect.
“I can’t wait to go on the beach and wear a bikini with my hair up. I might have a 12-inch scar down my back but that’s part of me, it shows what I have gone through.
“Like I said, no-one is perfect – so don’t judge and, again, be proud of you and who you are.”
“My message is simple. Please have the strength and courage to embrace your imperfections. Be proud of your body and your scars as they tell your story and make you who you are.
“Remember, nobody is perfect and life isn’t filtered – so be grateful and be proud to be you.”
Macey, from Ashton-in-Makerfield, became aware of her condition at the age of 12.
She says: “When I was in my room getting changed, I noticed a few abnormalities, a rib sticking out on the right…”
But it was her dance teacher at Garswood School of Dancing, where she’d gone since she was two, who persuaded her to get the ‘rib hump’ she had noticed finally and properly checked out.
“The doctor I saw had scoliosis himself and so, for a 12-year-old that was reassuring,” says Macey, a former pupil at Cansfield High School, now at Winstanley College studying English Language, Media and Graphics. “But he referred me to Alder Hey where I’d had X-ray surveillance since.”
The curvature caused by scoliosis started off at 40-degrees but gradually worsened to 80.
It caused pain for Macey, along with wheezing because of pressure on her lungs.
“It did get severe,” she admits. “It didn’t cause pain that made me cry, but it was a daily pain.
“And there was a mental aspect. Being young and a dancer, I was always conscious of what costumes would be chosen for us to wear. I’d hope they didn’t have an open back.
“I did try to hide it. I was so self-conscious, I’d ask people to take photos from the left. I spent my life in puffy jumpers and I’d never wear my hair in a bun, I’d always have it down to hide my back.
“It has affected me, though I’m happy to say it never stopped me from doing anything.”
Consultants at Alder Hey had confirmed to Macey from the moment she was sent there that she would eventually need an operation.
“I’d thought a brace might correct it, but they always said it would need to be surgically straightened. They could have done it earlier but there’s a calcium marker on your pelvis which shows when your growth is at maximum and they wanted to wait until then.
“Had they done it earlier, that would have been fine but it would have stopped me growing and I’d have stayed at whatever height I was. As the hospital visits became more frequent and the tests more indepth, I realised it was getting nearer.
“I was worried. It was a long operation and there was a risk of paralysis, but I had total confidence in the hospital and the medical team.
“They took out three ribs and inserted the metal rods and pins into my spine to make it straight.”
Macey was in hospital for just over a week when the operation was performed on January 13 and she has made a good recovery since, although it will take six months before she can get back to dancing and 12 months before she can take part in more extreme activity ‘like skiing’. “I have always longed to ski, but I was worried about any injuries that might set me back.
“Now I’m getting stronger, and I want to be able to do everything I want – and more.”
Macey has gone from 5ft 4in to 5ft 6.5in after the curve was corrected and her spine straightened and, along with a new physical strength, she is feeling more confident and positive by the day.