New Shriners app fills Illinois void

Greg Greco returned to school 7 inches taller this year. But it wasn’t due to the usual growth spurt teen boys experience; Greg spent his summer at Shriners Hospital in Chicago in halo traction after two spinal fusions to correct scoliosis.

“Now I can tower over everyone,” jokes the 16-year-old high school junior. His friends, he says, thinks it’s pretty cool. Best of all, though, is Greg is nearly pain free after living in constant discomfort that prevented him from doing things with his friends, walking or even standing for more than five minutes. “I don’t even know how I managed to get through that,” he says.

When it comes to scoliosis, Illinois no longer requires schools to conduct routine checks on students, leaving it up to parents and doctors to check. The problem is scoliosis presents itself during a time when well-child visits tend to fall off, around ages 10-15, says Molly Grant, a certified nurse practitioner at Shriners Hospitals and an Oak Park mom.

Up to 9 million people have scoliosis and the sooner it is diagnosed, the more options there are for treatment, she says.

Knowing that, Shriners developed SpineScreen, a free, easy-to-use app, in both English and Spanish, that parents can use at home to check for abnormal curves in their kid’s spine.

How it works: Simply open the app and hold the smartphone as it glides down a child’s back. It notes abnormal curves that might signal a visit to the doctor is in order for a check. Grant, like most busy moms who can lose track of time, also likes that reminders can be set in the app to check again in six months to a year.

Grant is on a mission to make sure everyone knows about the app to avoid any abnormal curves from getting worse. Shriners is a national leader in treatment of scoliosis.

Greg’s best advice: Don’t wait because it can just get worse. “Use the resources that they have, especially now that they are so accessible.”

The free SpineScreen is available in the Apple Store and Google Play. For more information about scoliosis and how Shriners is making a difference, visit shrinershospitalsforchildren.org/scoliosis.

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