British Columbia

B.C. teen with scoliosis speaks out about 'disheartening' 20-month delay for surgery

Over nearly two years, 14-year-old Jane Childerhose has gone from 35th on the B.C. Children's Hospital wait-list to just 32nd.

Jane Childerhose, 14, has barely moved up B.C. Children's Hospital wait-list while her condition worsens

Jane Childerhose, 14, is awaiting surgery for her worsening scoliosis. Over the last 20 months she's moved from 35th on the wait-list at B.C. Children's Hospital to just 32nd. (Rafferty Baker/CBC/submitted)

A Vancouver teen is speaking about enduring a near two-year wait for surgery to correct scoliosis.

In a span of 20 months, 14-year-old Jane Childerhose has gone from 35th place on the wait-list at B.C. Children's Hospital to just 32nd.

Meanwhile, her condition — which is causing her spine to grow in a pronounced "S" shape — continues to worsen.

"It's really pushing at some of my other bones in my body," she said. "It makes my rib cage pop out my back. And it kind of makes my shoulder blades weird."

Jane, who says she lives with a "dull ache" from the scoliosis, calls the wait "disheartening." 

Going public with her story is not an attempt to jump the surgery queue, says her father. Rather, it's to shine a light on a situation dozens of young people are facing.

Jane and her dad Neil Childerhose. 'Just back-of-a-napkin math, she'll be eligible for the surgery in over 10 years,' said Childerhose, who adds there could be 'devastating consequences' for his daughter if surgery is put off too long. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"Just back-of-a-napkin math, she'll be eligible for the surgery in over 10 years," said Neil Childerhose. "There's just no way that can be a reality because the spine is curved to such a point that it puts pressure on her lungs and her heart." 

A spokesperson for B.C. Children's Hospital says the first wave of the pandemic had an impact on surgeries, and that the hospital is facing increasing demands.

But communications manager Leslie Dickson also confirmed that the issue of spinal surgery delays existed before COVID-19 hit.

"We are seeing an increase in pediatric spinal surgery wait times at major hospitals across Canada, due to population growth and advances in spinal surgical procedures to treat conditions like scoliosis," she said.

"Some patients on B.C. Children's spine wait-list have wait times that are longer than the Pediatric Canadian Access Targets for Surgery benchmark of 180 days."

Dickson said the hospital is exploring ways to address the problem, including expanding operating room capacity.

Jane said the surgery she is waiting for will involve putting screws in her vertebrae that will attach to metal rods to pull her spine straight. 

'Continue to get worse'

While the procedure sounds unpleasant and daunting, it's also necessary.

"From my understanding, if it's not corrected, the curve of my spine will continue to get worse," she said. "And that would really hurt ... and it could also affect my ability to walk or just do normal things."

Jane's father says he hopes B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix is aware of the delays and of the children who are suffering.

"The bureaucrats that we've spoken to, they were well meaning for sure, but we're just not getting any results," Childerhose said.

"At this point we're worried that the longer we wait for surgery, the less effective the surgery will be... There are devastating consequences of waiting too long, such as paralysis."

With files from Rafferty Baker

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