Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine is bent unnaturally, and the curvature often tends to worsen as a person grows. Niki Waters of Booneville, underwent spinal fusion surgery to correct her scoliosis when she was just 14 years old, an experience that has inspired her to promote scoliosis awareness as much as she possibly can.
She was recently able to spread her message further when she was named first runner-up in the Miss UAFS Scholarship Pageant where she presented her platform Bent But Not Broken: Scoliosis Awareness.
Waters explained that everyone struggles with different issues, but knowing that someone else in the world also struggles with the same issue as oneself can inspire one to strive toward becoming an inspiration for those with whom they empathize.
“My scoliosis surgery changed me and my life for the better,” Waters said. “My back is now straight, and I have very few physical restrictions. I want others to understand it’s okay to be different.”
Waters wants to spread Scoliosis Awareness, because though most schools do yearly exams for scoliosis, many still do not.
“A tool that is used to establish a baseline for scoliosis is a scoliometer,” Waters said. “The meter is used to determine if a curve is present and if a referral to a doctor is necessary. […] I feel an open dialogue of scoliosis awareness and the need for scoliometers would benefit many young people in our country. Early detection of scoliosis could lead to a healthier lifestyle.”
Waters has worked toward advancing her platforming outside her participation in the pageant because it means so much to her. She has developed presentations and created and distributed brochures for those interested in knowing more about scoliosis and its treatments.
She has presented to various civic organizations and school boards and collected t-shirts to alter into what she calls “scolio-Ts” to give to patients at Arkansas Children’s Hospital who have undergone spinal fusion surgery. She is also using social media in her ongoing efforts to promote scoliosis awareness.
“According to the National Scoliosis Foundation,” Waters explained, “the primary age for onset is 10 to 15 years of age. Even though girls and boys are equally diagnosed with scoliosis, girls are eight times more likely to progress to a curve large enough to require surgery.”
According to Waters’ research, three out of 100 people in the United States have some form of scoliosis, though for many it is not much of a problem.
“My goal is to educate and encourage others by sharing my personal story and experience, letting them know they are not alone in the journey of living with scoliosis,” Waters said. “By continuing to promote my platform […], together we can learn that just because you may be bent, [that] does not mean you are broken.”