BOLIVAR, Mo. — Sixteen-year-old Shae Smith was crowned Miss Missouri’s Outstanding Teen over the summer, a title she deserves for more than one reason.
You wouldn’t know by the way she dances and plays sports, but life has thrown the Bolivar-native a major curve ball.
“I was diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis, meaning we don’t know why I have it, and we will never know why I have it,” said Smith.
The young athlete has spent the last five years managing an increasingly abnormal spinal curve.
“As a normal teenage girl, it wasn’t right,” recalled Smith.
The curve is now at 56 degrees, but has never stopped Smith from pursuing her dreams– winning the Miss Missouri Outstanding Teen title, and taking fourth runner up nationally in the Miss America sponsored event.
But now the pain, which Smith says she experiences daily, must come to an end. Months of wearing a hard shell brace wasn’t working with her active lifestyle, prompting Smith to look at other options.
“We knew it was time to do something about it,” she remembered.
In October, Smith chose to travel to the east coast to visit New Jersey spinal surgeon Darryl Antonacci, MD. Doctors determined her chances for a new type of surgery, discovering Smith would qualify as a candidate.
“Over the last six or seven years we’ve been developing a surgery that will change the way scoliosis is treated in the future,” said Dr. Antonacci. “The vast majority of surgeons who treat scoliosis do so with metal rods… [which often] makes your spine extremely rigid.”
Rather than the restricting treatment, the new approach uses a thread to tether the spine in a normal position, allowing Smith to continue dancing and playing sports– tasks that would become nearly impossible to complete with a rod in her back.
Smith will undergo surgery on December 2, but for now she has a message for anyone facing these kinds of curves along life’s path: “to all my scoliosis warriors out there– stay strong, hang in there, and if you’re wanting surgery, this is the way to go.”