Teenager born with a curved spine has defied odds to become a dancer

Teenager born with a curved spine has defied odds to become a dancer

In life, most people have a dream or ambition that they simply won't be able to fulfil. Maybe it's a childish fantasy that you abandon by adolescence, like wanting to be a pirate or the ability to fly. Or maybe it's an attainable goal, but it's one that's so remote that you need to adjust your expectations to fit reality, like becoming an astronaut. Teenager Lily Ritchie had a dream: she wanted to dance from an early age.

But nature had seen fit to thwart her dreams, since Lily developed a curved spine as a result of scoliosis. Lily's crooked back made her self-conscious, and she even took to wearing baggy clothes in an attempt to hide her condition. However, after a life-changing operation, Lily is now able to dance to her heart's content.

Lily's mother Julia, who lives in  South Kirkby in West Yorkshire, first noticed that something was wrong with her daughter when she saw her in a bikini while on holiday in Greece, but Lily had been telling her that she was 'bent' on one side of her body since the age of 12.

Teen dancer Lily Ritchie. Credit: Press Association

Lily and Julie were referred to a specialist at Leeds General Infirmary hospital in September 2016, where they were told that the girl needed surgery.

Commenting on her daughter's condition, Julie stated: "Lily was really upset.  We were told she needed a spinal fusion, to fuse the vertebrae, to correct any deformity. It involved six hours of surgery, with a week-long recovery period, during which she tried to take small steps daily and didn’t go back to school until October. Initially, she didn’t want such a major operation. But the curve had got worse and before the operation was curved at 70 degrees. She was so self-conscious that she would avoid PE classes, so friends didn’t see her undress."

She added: "I remember seeing her in her bikini on previous holiday in Ibiza in 2016 and spotting a curve to her back. I felt really bad as I had never noticed it before. We were away as part of a group of 20 parents and children and some of the other adults asked me about it. But by the time I saw it on holiday in Greece a year later, her spine was straight at the bottom, then curved at the top, like a question mark."

Teen dancer Lily Ritchie with her mother Julie. Credit: Press Association

However, luckily for the mother-daughter team, the operation, performed in August 2017 at the private Centre for Spinal and Neurosurgery at Nuffield Health Leeds Hospital, was a complete success. However, in January 2018, after she had recovered sufficiently, Lily made the decision to get dancing lessons, and how now managed to perform some incredible moves.

Commenting on her newfound passion, Lily stated: "I did some classes when I was younger, but when a friend said she was going to learn some moves, I decided to go, too. Now I can even do the splits, I’ve performed in live shows and am preparing for a dance competition next month. I wouldn’t have done any of that before my operation. I wouldn’t have had the confidence." I guess it just goes to show that even the worst news can be turned around, and that dreams really are possible after all.