University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust
Mili Wood

Meet the patients: Mili Wood

High-risk surgery gets Mili back on track

A teenager with an extraordinary curve in her spine has made an incredible recovery after risky surgery put an end to years of agonising pain.

Mili Wood, 17, was diagnosed with severe scoliosis of the spine and developed a mystery lump on her back at the age of two.

As her condition worsened and the bend in her spine reached 86 degrees, it was branded the worst case of deformity one consultant had ever seen.

Yet three hospitals refused to carry out the complicated operation to correct her spine because of the high risk of paralysis or death.

But Mili's parents Julie and Brian refused to give up hope and enlisted the help of Evan Davies at Southampton Children's Hospital.

And brave Mili is finally able to live her life to the full after the consultant spinal surgeon carried out the life-changing operation.

Mili, from Warrington, Cheshire, said: "The minute I heard about Evan Davies, I knew he was my last hope.

"Part of me didn't dare to believe he could help because I couldn't face being disappointed again.

"But after a few consultations I trusted Evan like I've never trusted anyone before. I knew he'd do his very best for me and I wasn't wrong.

"This operation has changed my life forever."

Mili was diagnosed with severe scoliosis of the spine at the age of two.

Her family watched helplessly as the curve in her spine developed from 22 degrees to a shocking 86 degree bend - despite efforts to correct it by wearing restrictive plaster and plastic jackets until she was five.

Soon the agony became unbearable for the youngster, who could no longer walk up stairs and missed three years of school.

She was 10 when she had two major surgeries in Liverpool.

But surgeons were unable to correct the problem and later deemed the operation too high risk.

The family were referred to two other children’s hospitals, but both agreed the operation was too dangerous.

Mrs Wood, 43, said: "Mili had been through hell.

"She'd been bullied and endured the most terrible pain - but no one would operate.

"It got so bad some doctors suggested she be prescribed ketamine.

"Others told her to grow her hair and wear baggy clothes to cover the hump.

"It was devastating."

But Mili's parents trawled the internet to find another surgeon.

It was then they read about consultant spinal surgeon Evan Davies.

After calling his private secretary, the family met Mr Davies in September.

He admitted there was a 20 per cent risk of paralysis and Mili's pain could even become worse, but he felt he could help her - and as an NHS patient.

Mum of three Mrs Wood said: "I could've hugged him with happiness.

"To know someone was finally going to try to help meant so much to us all."

Mili had the ten hour operation in April, when Mr Davies removed the damaged sections of the front and back of her spine.

It meant, for a time, Mili had a section of spine missing with the cord exposed.

He secured metal rods on either side of the spine with screws into it, before completing a bone graft over the area of spine that was removed.

Mr Davies was also able to remove the unsightly hump from Mili's back.

Mrs Wood said: "Mili wasn't nervous about the surgery, she just wanted it done.

"She was more concerned about the hump, which was actually part of her spine, because she always felt very self-conscious.

"But when she came around, Mr Davies told her he'd got rid of the 'hideous thing' on her back.

"She was so happy she couldn't speak."

Mili, who is four inches taller since the surgery, has already applied to study hairdressing and media make up at college in September.

She now dreams of working on a cruise ship.

Mili added: "I'm still recovering and taking each day as it comes but I'm delighted with the results.

"I missed out on a lot of things normal girls take for granted while growing up with this but I finally feel free now.

"The pain is gone and I no longer have to keep my hair long to hide the shape of my back and I can wear whatever clothes I want without feeling self-conscious.

"Words cannot explain how thankful I am to Evan and his team.

"I wouldn't have a future to look forward to and be excited about if it wasn't for what they have done for me."

Mrs Wood added: "The operation has given our whole family a lifeline and we are so grateful to Mr Davies."

Mr Davies said: "When I was approached by Mili's family, two things came to mind.

"The first was how tragic it was that Mili had suffered for so long.

"The second was the risk - as an operation like this carries about as high a risk as you can ever get.

"We basically have to break the spine and straighten it to where it should be.

"It's a bit like if you had a bent straw and you cut away the bent part, before reattaching it end to end to make it straight.

"There is always a concern about paralysis, but Mili's surgery went fantastically."

He added: "The brilliant thing about surgery on scoliosis patients like Mili is that they can see the changes very early on.

"And with families like Mili's, you get to make a difference to all of their lives.

"And that really is the most fantastic feeling."

Courtesy of Solent News and Photo Agency

Behind the scenes

Operating theatre

Go inside the operating theatre with Evan Davies and his team with our interactive 360° picture.

(Courtesy of Solent News and Photo Agency)