Miss Tucson Del Sol overcomes debilitating scoliosis - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

Miss Tucson Del Sol overcomes debilitating scoliosis

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Tucson- Scoliosis is a deformity of the spine, a condition that effects over 6 million people in the U.S.. One local woman's case was so severe it nearly robbed her of a chance to compete for a national title. But with a lot of determination and the help of a gifted surgeon she was soon back on stage.

Hannah Leigh Johnson is now 19 years old and was crowned Miss Tucson Del Sol 2017. Among her talents baton twirling but just five years ago Hannah thought she might never twirl a baton again...

"When I was 13 years old I was trying on a dance costume and noticed that my shoulders were sticking out and were not normal whatsoever", said Johnson.

After initial exams she ended up at the Tucson Orthopedic Institute. At first, physical therapy and other treatments were tried but her physician, Dr. Brian Neilsen, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, said her condition kept getting progressively worse.

"Her curve progressed pretty rapidly and got to the point where it was not treatable in any other way except for surgery", said Nielsen.

Without it Johnson risked not having the ability to move normally but also possible damage to her internal organs. Johnson decided to have the surgery. Dr. Nielsen said the surgery basically had one purpose.

"The main portion of her curve we straightened using some screws and some rods", said Nielsen, "And basically just took those and just straightened out the curved portion of the spine." 

It was several days before Johnson realized the surgery was a success.

"It wasn't until about a week later, when i took my first steps after surgery, that I realized I was going to be okay", said Johnson.

The curvature was so severe Johnson was two inches taller after the surgery. Just a year later she competed and finished top five in a national twirling competition. Her recovery inspired her to become involved in the Children's Miracle Network and it's partner the Miss America organization.  That led to competing for and winning the Miss Tucson Del Sol title. Johnson said she will be forever grateful to the Tucson Orthopedic Institute and Dr. Nielsen.

"It is an extremely invasive surgery but he does use his techniques to be able to get it done quickly to get you back in to everyday life", said Johnson, "And that is just something that I feel personally passionate about to let others know about too."

This June Johnson plans to compete in the Miss Arizona Pageant. For more information on treating scoliosis click here.

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