WITH a hunched back and in crippling pain, Bernadine Radice was facing the prospect of living the rest of her life in agony until life-changing surgery 18 months ago.
The 32-year-old Pickering Brook woman has her surgeon to thank for corrective surgery that reduced the chronic curvature of her spine – and four people who donated their hip bones after hip replacement surgery.
Bernadine was five years old when her mother first sought advice from a doctor, concerned about her daughter’s posture.
“The doctor brushed it off saying: ‘She’s lazy, she’s slouching, she’s fine, she’s fine’,” she said.
For years Bernadine endured a revolving door of medical appointments until one doctor took her complaint seriously. She was diagnosed with Scheuermann’s disease, a developmental disorder of the spine that causes wedging of the vertebrae and results in a hunchback.
Two years of wearing a restrictive back brace 23 hours a day, seven days a week did not help and at the age of 18 Bernadine was told her deformity was “cosmetic” and nothing could be done to relieve her pain.
Her symptoms worsened and four years ago, while picking fruit, her back seized.
“I will never forget that day. It was horrific,” Bernadine said.
In August 2016 – 25 years after her mother first raised concerns – Bernadine underwent corrective surgery. Orthopaedic surgeon Peter Woodland cut out the four wedged vertebrae, replaced them with donor bone and inserted two large rods.
“The results have been amazing,” Bernadine said.
“I have gained 5cm in height. I’ve gone from an 85 per cent curvature of the spine to 33 per cent, well within the normal range now. And the pain is so much better – it’s manageable.”
Bernadine is waiting for November, when she will be assessed to return to work.
She is sharing her story to raise awareness about bone and tissue donation and the work of PlusLife, WA’s only bone and tissue bank.
PlusLife will open a $10 million state-of-the-art facility in Midland on Saturday.