SALT LAKE CITY — Four years ago, cheerleader Tayler Hansen was diagnosed with scoliosis — a curving of her spine. If left uncorrected, it would eventually push against her lungs.
In decades past, the corrective surgery took eight to 12 hours with recovery lasting many months. But this determined Timpview High School senior is back on her feet less than a month after her April 4 surgery.
Hansen says she had a very noticeable hump on her back and that for years, she couldn't see one of her shoulder blades.
After seeing several doctors, she was referred to orthopedic surgeon Dr. John Smith at Primary Children's Medical Center. One of the first things Smith did was put 18-year-old Hansen in a brace.
"The goal of the brace is to stop the progression of the curve while the child goes through her adolescent growth spurt," Smith said.
She wore the uncomfortable brace for nine months. While it helped, her condition eventually worsened.
"That came as kind of a shock when we learned that she had to have surgery," said Sharen Hansen, Tayler's mother.
In early April, Tayler Hansen underwent a spinal fusion.
"We are able to grab onto the spine at multiple points using something called a pedicle screw," Smith explained. "You attach two rods that are shaped like the spine should be shaped. In doing that, it corrects the deformity."
The surgery took 2½ hours.
"The first thing I noticed out of surgery was that her torso was elongated, that she actually got more height in her torso," Sharen Hansen said.
"I'm not 5 foot anymore, I'm 5 feet 1 inch now," Tayler Hansen said, proudly.
She was walking the next day.
"I'd say the first few weeks were pretty painful," she said. "I just wanted to sit on my bed or my couch and just read my book or watch TV."
But she says she is doing well now. She's a little sore, but moving around. On Monday, she was back at school.
Dr. Smith is one of the best in the world in his field. "Kids from all over the world come to have this surgery done by him, and doctors from all over the world come to be trained under Dr. Smith," Sharen Hansen said.
Tuesday, Tayler Hansen returned to Primary Children's Medical Center to meet with Smith for the first time in a month. From the outside, her incision looks good but the before and after X-rays show the change.
With a straighter spine, her internal organs will be much healthier, she'll live without pain and there is another upside — perfect posture.
"Looking back, I know at first I didn't want this, but it's been a blessing in disguise," she said. "Everything has fallen into place and I know that the Lord has had a major part in this."
Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc