Abisola Oni is the co-founder of Beyond A Curved Spine (BACS) Nigeria, which focuses on Scoliosis Awareness, an issue which she describes as very common but many parents know very little about. Born from a personal experience, Oni tells TOBI AWODIPE what scoliosis really is, signs to look out for in children and the stigma associated with having it
Tell us about yourself and your background
I am a graduate of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, and for my day job, I work as a Product Consultant in Tech and outside of my 9-5, I like to see myself as a fierce protector of curved spines at Beyond A Curved Spine (BACS), an organization focused on raising Scoliosis awareness one city at a time and also building a community of love and support for ScoliWarriors (that is a term we coined at BACS)
What exactly is Scoliosis?
It is an abnormal curvature of the spine; the spine is curved to one side of the body, rather than straight. The spine is curved, and may take a “C” or an “S” shape. Scoliosis affects girls more than boys and occurs mostly during the pre-adolescent years (from ages 10-16). 80-90 percent of scoliosis cases are idiopathic (meaning they have no known cause) and for now, it has no 100 percent cure. A progressive curve left untreated can cause heart, lung and neurological complications, or even death. Early detection is the best way to defeat scoliosis.
Is there treatment for scoliosis?
There may be no 100 percent cure for scoliosis, but there are treatment options such as Bracing, Physical Therapy and Surgery. Treatment option depends on certain factors such as severity of curve and age, among others. The key is early detection. Detecting Scoliosis early aids effective treatment. If you currently live with scoliosis, engage in swimming and core-strengthening exercises, as these exercises will keep your back strong.
What led to Beyond A Curved Spine? Are you the only one involved in it?
I found out I had scoliosis about 10 years ago through my partner, Abimbola Oladapo, while we were in high school together. Several years down the line, we realised there was very little information available on Scoliosis related issues in this part of the world, so after nursing the idea for a while, we decided to launch BACS to the public last year.
How has the experience been so far? What programmes have you done to improve enlightenment, as this month is the global Scoliosis awareness month?
In the last one year since we launched, we have organized awareness sessions in churches, engaged audiences at various seminars and our major event is our awareness run. June is the global Scoliosis awareness month and we will be having the second edition of our awareness run on thJune 24, 2017 at St Saviours, Ikoyi and everyone is invited. Details here bit.ly/runforscoliosis
You work a full time job, how do you combine working and running this?
It does get tasking especially when we have to plan for events, so I try to get a lot of BACS activities done during the weekend, so it does not interfere with my day job. Between my co-founder and myself, we split tasks and also get help from our volunteers.
How do you manage with funding? Do you source for funds or it is self-funded?
At the moment, BACS is funded from our pockets as well as donations from our family, friends and supporters. We are also in the process of applying for grants.
How can parents and guardians help with early detection?
It is very important that not only parents and guardians, but also relatives and siblings regularly examine kids for signs of Scoliosis. Signs to look out for include uneven shoulders, one hip higher than the other, head or neck slightly tilted, uneven hemline in girls and uneven trouser length in boys and girls. There is also the Adams forward bend test to check for prominence or hump in the rib area and asymmetry in the hips or waist.
Is there any form of social stigma attached to scoliosis? If yes, how did you deal with it and how would you advise others to deal with it?
In some parts of Nigeria, myths exist that hunched-back persons are ideal for rituals, which of course is not true. There are also instances of body shaming that people with scoliosis face. It’s important to have supportive family and friends that encourage you, be bold and develop self-confidence; this helps to disregard rude remarks.
Any mentors that influenced you?
I am quite inspired by a lot of people in different fields that will take a whole lot of space if I begin to mention.
Where can people go to for help, support and enlightenment?
Come to BACS. That is why we are here, so if anyone reading this needs to talk to someone that can provide more information, refer them to a spine specialist, know and understands what they are going through, we are just a click away. Reach us on our website at www.beyondacurvedspine.com.
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