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Sawbridgeworth 16-year-old with scoliosis makes great recovery after life-changing operation in Germany

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The mother of a teenage girl who underwent a life-changing operation in Germany has spoken of a rollercoaster time punctuated by isolation, worry and floods.

Suzanne Kingston, of Sawbridgeworth, took her 16-year-old daughter Holi to have the operation in July. As soon as they got there the town they were staying in was hit by flash floods which devastated the country, killing at least 180 people.

But the operation to correct a curvature in Holi's spine caused by scoliosis, which was unavailable through the NHS, went ahead and Suzanne told the Indie it was a success, meaning she can look to the future pain-free.

Holi in Germany around a week after the operation (50314797)
Holi in Germany around a week after the operation (50314797)

"After a rollercoaster time in Germany with isolation and floods and worry, Holi made a great recovery after her surgery," said Suzanne. "In fact the nurses were saying how extraordinary she is."

Holi, a former Leventhorpe School student who is looking forward to sixth form at Herts and Essex High in Bishop's Stortford, now has 10 titanium screws in her spine, held taut by two cords.

"Her curve was very stiff so the surgeon had to work hard to straighten it," said Suzanne. "It isn't perfectly straight but that was never the reason we went for this surgery. We wanted Holi to be pain-free with a straighter, flexible spine and to limit further progression of the curve – and this is what the amazing surgeon has achieved."

Holi in hospital five days after surgery putting her flag on the map of children who have had scoliosis surgery there (50629957)
Holi in hospital five days after surgery putting her flag on the map of children who have had scoliosis surgery there (50629957)

Suzanne admitted it was very nerve-wracking travelling home with Holi as she was in pain despite the "huge amount of medication" she was on. "We knew it was safe though," added Suzanne. "And let's face it, there's nothing like home to help a recovery."

Thanks to a friend, Holi's flight was met by a hydraulic ambulance which meant she could walk directly from the plane and onto a seat, before being taken to a wheelchair and through arrivals.

"Since we've been home Holi's gone from strength to strength," said Suzanne.

"She's still taking lots of medication and gets out of breath easily, but she's played her beloved piano, been on a tour of Herts and Essex school and managed nearly two hours of her Year 11 prom," said her mum, adding: "All of this in one week – she's one strong girl."

Holi all ready for her school prom (50314804)
Holi all ready for her school prom (50314804)

And on Thursday August 19 Holi received her GCSE results and was delighted to get the highest grade 9s in the three subjects she hopes to do for A-levels – English literature, music and art – along with two 8s, a 7, a 6 and three 5s in other subjects.

"She's really pleased and really relieved," said Suzanne. "It wasn't an easy time for any of the Year 11s because of Covid, but Holi was also managing increasing pain which made it really hard for her to concentrate.

"I'm very proud of her and so pleased she can go to Herts and Essex. It's where Alis [Holi's older sister] went three years ago when, of course, she too was recovering from the same surgery. The school was amazing and Alis flourished there, so I'm pleased Holi has the same opportunity."

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