Family aims to raise £160,000 for pioneering surgery

A funding campaign has started to help Lucy Huddleston receive pioneering back treatment in the US.
A funding campaign has started to help Lucy Huddleston receive pioneering back treatment in the US.

A heart-felt funding campaign has been launched to help a teenager undergo pioneering surgery in America.

Lucy Huddleston, from Bedlington, was scheduled to have life -changing spinal surgery in December but the NHS operation was delayed and then cancelled due to funding issues.

Now family and friends have started a GoFundMe crowd-funding campaign to pay for the surgery themselves.

They have a target of £160,000 and have so far raised nearly £18,000.

Lucy, 15, suffers from adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, which is an abnormal twisting and curvature of the spine.

She was promised a new procedure called vertebral body tethering (VBT) which involves screws being inserted into each vertebra and tethered with a cord and pulled taut to straighten the spine.

Lucy’s father Mark, a paramedic, said: “We are saddened and frustrated that our 15-year-old daughter was promised this life-changing surgery and had it taken away from her at the very last minute.

“The surgery was scheduled on the NHS for the end of last year but now my family face the prospect having to cover the costs privately. It’s deeply upsetting.”

The curves in Lucy’s back are currently at 55 and 60 degrees in the shape of an S and if left uncorrected will increase and stiffen with time, leaving her with chronic back pain.

Due to the twisting nature of scoliosis her ribcage is also rotated and this has produced a visible ‘rib hump’ on the left hand side of her back and a protruding right shoulder blade.

Mark added: “If the condition continues to get worse it could also have a serious effect on her internal organs.

“However, the only treatment available in the UK at the moment is called spinal fusion. This operation involves the use of screws, metal rods and a bone graft which would straighten her spine but fuse it all together creating one solid structure.

“As Lucy has two curves this means the majority of her spine would need to be fused. This would severely restrict her mobility and have a huge effect on her quality of life.

“As parents we refused to accept that this was the only option and were convinced there must be something better.

“After much research we found a procedure called Vertebral Body Tethering (VBT) which has been pioneered in the US. This life changing operation corrects the curves without the need for a fusion.

“The key difference between this and fusion is that the plastic tether is flexible compared to the rigid metal rods. This means that Lucy’s spine would remain flexible and she would keep her mobility.

“This surgery is far less invasive and has a much improved recovery period compared to fusion.

“In July we had a consultation in London with the only surgeon in the UK who was actively performing this operation. Lucy was deemed a candidate and we were absolutely thrilled.”

However, the family with rocked in October by the news that Lucy’s surgery had been cancelled and in December were told she was no longer eligible for VBT in the UK.

They have now set their sights on surgery in America, but due to Lucy suffering from two curves, it increases the costs.

Kelsea Little, spokesperson for GoFundMe.com, said: “Lucy is an inspiring young lady, and we hope she is able to get the surgery she needs very soon.”

To support the appeal, visit www.gofundme.com/lucys-life-changing-spinal-surgery