After surgery to correct her scoliosis, Sydney Sill wasn’t sure what she’d be able to do.
Titanium rods fused her spine and doctors told her not to participate in any physical activity for a year, which
was tough for such an active pre-teen.
“That was hard,” she told The Greenville News. “I was 12 and I wanted to be a cheerleader in middle school,
but I couldn’t.”
Once that year was over, though, Sill, now 21, was able to return to dancing, hiking, cheerleading and other
activities she enjoys.
This past June, the Duncan woman even became first runner up in the Miss South Carolina pageant.
And she credits Shriners Hospital for Children in Greenville for her restored health.
“I’m able to live a normal life,” she says. “I can never repay the Shriners Hospital for what they did, not only in healing me, but in giving me this platform where I can inspire other people.”
Pain and deformity
Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine that can lead to life-long pain and deformity, according to Shiners, which
provides specialty orthopedic care for children regardless of ability to pay. At its worst, it can prevent lungs from
developing normally and makes breathing difficult.
Because the condition, which afflicts as many as 9 million people in the United States, is not initially obvious,
children may not be diagnosed until the curvature is severe, the hospital reports.
Sill, a senior at Clemson University studying communications and nonprofit leadership, was diagnosed at age 7.
At that point, her spine was curved 28 degrees.
She spent the next four years in an uncomfortable back brace in an attempt to prevent it from getting worse. But
it progressed to 36 degrees and then to 54 degrees when she hit a growth spurt in 2007.
“I would get winded when I ran up the stairs because my rib cage was compressing my lungs,” she said. “That’s
why I had to have an operation.”
The spinal fusion surgery was done two days after her 12th birthday.
Sill is able to live a normal life — except for jumping on trampolines, she quips. And she’s learned to adjust to her
limited spinal flexibility.
“Most people think that when you have fusion, it makes you straight again and normal like any other person,” she said. “But they can only correct to about half of what the degree was. Mine is about 32 degrees now.”
In 2012, Sill won the Miss South Carolina Teen contest, tap dancing for the talent portion and using as her platform, “If you can believe it you can achieve it — Overcoming life’s obstacles.”
For the Miss South Carolina pageant this year, she tweaked her platform a little to “I’m possible — perseverance into possibilities.”
“I want to help other children through whatever obstacle, whether it’s being a patient in a hospital or having a bad home life,” she said. “And let them
know that if you persevere and have determination, you can overcome it.”
She still has a special place in her heart for Shriners. She’s done volunteer work there, comforting other children undergoing surgery. And she’s looking forward to an upcoming internship at the hospital as well.
“I’m doing really well now,” she said. “They really changed my life.”