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Tampa Bay student inspiring other 'Scoliwarriors' following severe scoliosis diagnosis journey

Tampa Bay student inspiring other 'Scoliwarriors' following severe scoliosis diagnosis journey
Tampa Bay student inspiring other 'Scoliwarriors' following severe scoliosis diagnosis journey 02:13

TAMPA, Fla. (Tampa Bay Now) - A St. Petersburg native, athletics has always been a big part of Sierra Lowery's life. "Volleyball, cheerleading, softball, soccer, track and field, AAU volleyball," said 21-year-oldLowery. But at age fourteen, everything changed. "Ninth grade, I was getting a routine physical exam to play volleyball and when I bent down, she analyzed my back and noticed that there was a curvature." She was diagnosed with a severe case of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis - a curvature and a twisting of the spine.

"Her curve was so bad, there was no way to stop it from getting worse with a brace and she was going to have continued progression or worsening of the curve magnitude as her life progressed," said Jeffrey Neustadt M.D., Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon with Children's Orthopedic and Scoliosis Surgery and Associates. He saw Lowery in 2016.

"Seeing my x-ray on the screen was very surprising," said Lowery. "I didn't know.. it looked like that. I was kind of terrified, given the treatment options."

After nearly five years, the pain was intensifying and she decided on the surgery. 

"Usually, at some point, the pain becomes unrelenting, and people really have a decrease in the quality of their life. They also become less active and can't participate they would enjoy that their friends can," said Dr. Neustadt who later performed her surgery at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg. "First of all, it's appropriate to be scared. It's a huge operation that has some very significant and serious complications, there's no doubt about that. My gratitude goes out to them for having trust me. It's a team approach. But the relationship between the patient and the surgeon is also a team," said Dr. Neustadt.

Her journey didn't stop there. A senior healthcare management student at Florida AMU, she's now dedicating her time to helping other kids with the same diagnosis and hoping to inspire others after her life changing surgery.

"There weren't really many young people that looked like me that were telling their stories," Lowery. She's inspiring other 'scoli-warriors' by spearheading fundraisers. "I've also raised funds for a little girl in Texas to receive bracing."

And she's giving their voice a platform. "A scoli-warrior blog just to kind of document everything from a consultation to surgery to one month post-op to walking to surpassing my goals and expectations," she said. "Mental health and having a good support system will take you very far in any tribulation that you face."

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