Twins Katie and Abbie Varty made history at The James Cook University Hospital when they both underwent surgery for scoliosis in the same week.
Their journey began two years ago when both girls were diagnosed with different types of scoliosis – a condition where the spine twists and curves to the side.
The sisters from in Cockermouth in Cumbria were referred to the specialist paediatric spine service at James Cook for back brace treatment.
Unfortunately the different braces did not stop either of the girl’s curves progressing so they both had to be booked in for surgery – Katie on 14 January and Abbie, two days later, on 16 January. They were 14 years old at the time of their operations.
Consultant spine surgeons Waleed Hekal and Zak Choudhury performed the surgery. Both girls recovered well, with support from their parents and specialist nurse Cheryl Honeyman, and they went home together on 21 January.
After the surgery Katie had grown 4.5cm taller and Abbie had grown 2.5cm taller.
Katie, now 15, said: “To find out that we had scoliosis was a scary thing but to go through this with my twin made the whole journey easier.
“When we found out that we both had scoliosis was a very hard day, but after meeting Mr Hekal and Cheryl, they made us feel very reassured about the journey ahead of us.
“We both started off by wearing different back braces, but as our scoliosis progressed we found out that we needed surgery. Mr Hekal and Cheryl explained everything that was going to happen and we were never left in the dark about any details.”
Abbie, now 15, added: “When people tell you about having surgery, you can feel afraid. The words ‘spinal fusion’ and ‘intensive care’ can often make you fear the worst, but it is far from it.
“The intensive care and the ward team make it less scary. Many people may also think that this lasts forever, but a month later we feel normal again. It is amazing how fast you can recover from such major surgery.
“If we could tell something to anyone who was getting the same surgery as us, we would tell them that you are going to be ok and you can be fixed. You are always in good hands and the results are amazing.”
Mum Karen said: “As a parent one of the hardest things you ever have to do is hand over your child to go for major surgery, but we had no doubt our girls were going to be cared for by the most brilliant team, resulting in unbelievable correction.
“To go through the process once is difficult enough, but for both of your daughters to go through surgery during the same week was very overwhelming, it did help that they went through this together and helped each other every step of the way.
“Part of the joy of having twins is that everything is times two, including spinal surgery, in our case!”
Dad Will added: “We are overwhelmed with the excellence, kindness and care we received from all the surgical, paediatric intensive care unit and Ward 22 team. Every member of staff made us feel so welcome and it really made the difference. It was an extremely stressful and daunting time for our family but the friendly faces helped us every step of the way.
“The surgery has changed our girls lives forever and we are so proud how Katie and Abbie bravely got through their whole scoliosis journey, but we are certain this was due to the care of Mr Hekal and all the team at James Cook, we can never thank you enough.
“Over the last two years we have travelled over to James Cook from Cumbria, 17 times to our various appointments driving 3,570 miles but it was worth every mile!”