By Harriet Whitehead
A talented gymnast with a severe back condition which left her with an ‘S’ shaped spine was diagnosed after her mum spotted she had the same body shape as Britain’s Got Talent star Julia Carlile.
Caitlan Moss, 14, fears she may be forced to abandon her dreams of becoming a professional gymnast after being diagnosed with Scoliosis.
The pain caused by the debilitating curve, which is now at a 71 degree angle, often wakes the teen up during the night – and it’s gymnastics that provides her with relief.
Now her family have launched a ‘Keep Caitlan Bendy’ campaign in a bid to raise money so she can have surgery in Germany which will allow her to continue to train.
The condition hit the headlines after Simon Cowell paid £175,000 for dancer Julia Carlile to have corrective surgery after she reached the final of the TV talent show last year with group MerseyGirls.
Mum Jackie Moss, 42, admits she hadn’t heard of scoliosis before and it’s thanks to seeing the ITV show that she spotted her daughter’s condition in May last year.
Receptionist Jackie from Manchester said: “We were getting changed to go out and I was ironing Caitlan’s top.
“I turned around to speak to her and she was at a certain angle and I could see one shoulder was protruding more than the other. I thought ‘that doesn’t look right’.
“I looked at it closer and asked her to bend over and you could see that her back was twisted.
“I knew about the condition because we’d been watching Britain’s Got Talent and there had been a lot of publicity around Julia Carlile.
“It was about a month after the final that I noticed Caitlan’s back.
“I knew straight away that it was scoliosis, it’s not something I’d heard of before the show.
“I just worry that had I not been ironing her top I wouldn’t have noticed it and it would have been a lot worse before we got help.
“You can see when she stands that she’s lopsided. I don’t know how long she’d had it for before I noticed.
“A lot of parents blame themselves for not noticing and so do I. It was only by chance that I spotted it because obviously she’s been dressing herself for a long time so I’d not seen her out of her clothes.”
Jackie took the school girl to the GP and they were referred to the spinal unit at Manchester Children’s Hospital.
X-rays confirmed she had Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis – it’s unknown what caused it.
Jackie said: “Seeing that x-ray was so upsetting. Obviously we knew she had it but to see how bad it was it’s not nice and made me feel like we hadn’t acted quickly enough.
“It’s not something children are born with, it can develop with growth so it’s vital parents check their children’s backs.
“It looks like she is on a slant all the time. You see people taking pictures and they bend their leg and drop their shoulder – she’s like that all the time.
“The doctor told us if the curve is between 40 and 50 degrees over they would consider surgery.
“Hers were nearly 60 degrees and now it’s progressed to 71 degrees. We were told surgery was the only option.
“I’ve been keeping an eye on its progress since she was diagnosed.
“From the shape of her torso and shoulder blades you can see how much worse it’s got.
“The surgeon said it usually progresses half to one degree a year but Caitlin’s has grown just over 10 degrees in a month.
“If she didn’t have surgery she will carry on growing and it will grow with her.
“She would be all out of proportion and would stoop.
“There’s also the fear that it could damage her internal organs. It could cause breathing problems or there’s the risk of her ribs puncturing her lungs.”
Caitlan said at first she didn’t feel any pain but earlier this year her back started to hurt and she gave up gym and her other love karate – unsure of whether they were exacerbating the condition.
But she started again after doctors told her it could actually help keep her flexible.
Caitlan said: “It’s more of an aching pain, it’s particularly bad in the morning and I have to stretch it out.
“I actually find the gymnastics and karate helps me cope with it too.
“It’s not too bad sitting down but can be when I’m in bed and I’ll often wake up in the night.
“When I first saw the x-ray I was really scared. I didn’t realise how bad it was until I’d seen that. My spine is an ‘S’ shape.”
Mum-of-three Jackie said: “She gave up gym and karate which she hated, she was so upset. She missed a whole term of gymnastics.
“But the doctors said if she felt comfortable she could take them up again and that the exercise would help with keeping her muscles flexible.
“She’s doing really well and actually got her black belt in karate this week.”
Jackie says the surgery offered by the NHS would involve spinal fusion with metal rods screwed into her spine meaning she will lose her flexibility and wouldn’t be able to carry on with the sports she loves.
The family, including supermarket shift co-ordinator dad Darren, 42, sister Briony, 20, and brother Aaron, 17, are now looking to raise £45,000 to take Caitlan to Germany for vertebral body tethering.
This treatment uses a flexible cord instead of a metal pole and the family claims it would allow Caitlan to continue sports.
The less invasive keyhole surgery would also mean a shorter recovery time so Caitlan could be back in school within six weeks.
Caitlan has the surgery booked for November but it’s dependent on them raising the money.
Jackie said: “Time is of the essence. Any surgery will mean there’s a long time when she won’t be able to exercise but when she’s recovered it will allow her to pursue her dream.
“It would mean the world to her if she could have this surgery. She loves what she does and has always wanted to do it and it’s the main part of her life.
“It’s key for her future. It may not be life threatening but it is life changing especially for someone so young. It’s about her quality of life.
“If she has the first option for surgery she would probably have to give up gymnastics and karate.
“She will be out of pain but she will have the rods all down her back because it’s so invasive and it’s a long recovery period of about 12 months.
“She would have restricted movement. She would be able to do some elements of it but she wouldn’t be able to compete.
“It would be heart breaking if she could only watch from the side lines and could no longer do something that she loves. I don’t know if she would be able to accept that.
“She knows it’s a lot of money we’re trying to raise and she’s accepted there’s a possibility we may not be able to do it.”
Jackie said her daughter has always been sporty having achieved her black belt in karate in the minimum four years instead of the usual six.
Jackie said: “She just loves it and she always gives it her all. She loves to see that she’s making progress in something.
“She’s hopeful that she’ll be to compete one day but with what’s been going on it’s making it difficult. That’s why it’s so important for us that she gets this surgery.
“Caitlan has so much positivity about her, I don’t know where she gets it from. She’s coping better with it than we are.”
Caitlan said: “I’m really hopeful I’ll be able to get the surgery in Germany.
“I’m desperate to do competitions and would love to represent my country one day.
“I think I’d be really upset and emotional if I was unable to do it anymore.”
To donate to Keep Caitlan Bendy visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/jackie-moss-keepcaitlanbendy
WHAT IS SCOLIOSIS?
• Scoliosis is when the spine curves to the side. The spine can also twist at the same time. This twisting can pull the ribcage out of position.
• Scoliosis is not a disease. It just means that in an often otherwise healthy person the spine is curved or twisted.
• It is not infectious or contagious. It does not develop because of anything a person did or did not do.
• Although many people have not heard of scoliosis it is not rare. 3 to 4 children per 1000 need specialist supervision.
(INFORMATION FROM SCOLIOSIS ASSOCIATION UK)