Teen’s Spine Surgery to be Funded by Simon Cowell

When competitors appear on hit show Britain’s Got Talent, they do so knowing they’ll have to face the notoriously hard-nosed Simon Cowell. Cowell’s skill at discovering stars has only been outpaced by his nastiness. He dismisses those who don’t make the cut in ways that are entertaining – but can also be mean. So it took a real act of bravery for 15-year old Julia Carlile, who suffers from scoliosis, and her fellow dance team MerseyGirls, to appear on the show. It took, even more courage for her to reveal her physical condition and note that it might be her last time dancing. The audience responded to the girls’ performance with a standing ovation while the show’s Alesha Dixon sent them on through the competition. And Cowell’s response? He’s going to pay for the $100,000 spine surgery that will allow her to dance in the future.

Scoliosis is a condition that causes the spine to twist and curve sideways. Symptoms include one hip being higher than the other, one shoulder being higher than the other, and ribs that stick out farther on one side than the other. It is most commonly seen in children between the ages of ten and fifteen, but it can occur at any age. When is first identified, physicians will usually order an X-ray to determine exactly how bad it is and to establish a baseline. They will then monitor the condition, watching to see whether it gets worse. Some patients are provided with a brace to prevent a greater curvature from developing, though their use is generally stopped after a child’s bones stop growing.

Though some cases of scoliosis do not require medical intervention, severe cases can make it difficult for patients to breathe, and even those that are not that severe may require surgery.  The most common surgery for the condition is spinal fusion, in which surgeons connect bones in the spine together to prevent them from moving independently. Sometimes doctors use rods, hooks or screws to stabilize the spine while new bone forms.

In Julia Carlile’s case, the specific surgery that she needs is called anterior scoliosis correction surgery, which is more widely available in the United States than in the United Kingdom. The cost of the surgery is $100,000: the dance troupe had hoped that they would win the $322,000 prize and use it to fund her operation. Though they were defeated in a later round of the competition, Simon Cowell announced that he had been so moved by Carlile’s story that he was going to provide the funding for the surgery himself. ”I think if someone comes on in this situation, to do nothing would be … well, I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror,” he said. “You create a connection. And I think with us in this particular case, I think there is something we can do. There’s no way I would ever say: ‘Right, you came second, so it’s all over.’”

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