Daria Milovanova staff writer
Can you imagine wearing a binding, uncomfortable back brace every day? Senior Natasha Melamed can. She was diagnosed with a severe case of scoliosis in middle school and was required to wear a back brace in order to prevent her spinal condition from getting worse. She founded the Scoliosis Awareness Club her sophomore year of high school with a mission of spreading awareness about the disorder.
Scoliosis is a physiological disorder characterized by the abnormal curvature of the spine it causes, which can lead to distressing back pains. National Scoliosis Foundation statistics report scoliosis occurs in two to three percent of the population, or around six to nine million people in the United States alone. The disorder is most prevalent in early adolescents, ages 10-15.
“When I was younger, I was diagnosed with a severe case of scoliosis and it’s kind of impacted my life a lot since. When I was in middle school…it got really bad. So I was putting on a back brace and through that, I kinda met a lot of people who are going through similar things,” Melamed said.
With the Scoliosis Awareness Club, Melamed hopes to reach her target audience of middle school children and their parents to promote receiving an early scoliosis screening with health professionals.
“Our parents would talk about [scoliosis] and they weren’t really sure which doctor to go to or how to go through it, like what sort of treatments to have,” Melamed said. “So I was talking to Dr. Leonel Hunt, who’s a lead attending spine surgeon at [Cedars-Sinai Medical Center]…he likes to call [scoliosis] school-iosis, so…that kind of inspired me to create a club at school where we can spread these messages to the community, hopefully reaching a younger audience.”
Considering that scoliosis has an onset age around 10 to15 years, Melamed recognizes the importance of preventing and treating the disorder as early as possible. She plans to do so by raising awareness about scoliosis at Beverly Vista Middle School and working with the Beverly Vista Middle School Student Council and PTA.
“I think that the whole mission in the first place is to…increase awareness. I really don’t think there is a lot and I’m hoping to change that, especially this year. Like I said, it’s kind of harder once people get into high school to treat it properly, that’s why we’re trying to work with the middle school,” Melamed said.
Senior Melody Kashani, vice president of the Scoliosis Awareness Club, notes Melamed’s struggle and strength in overcoming scoliosis.
“I don’t have scoliosis, but Natasha, my closest friend, does. In middle school, she really struggled with it. She wanted to wear crop tops and she couldn’t, and like after PE, we’ve always helped her with her brace and it was hard for her. I don’t know how she did it every day,” Kashani said. “I remember she called me when she didn’t have to wear her brace anymore during the daytime. And she was so excited, I was so excited for her. Scoliosis can change someone’s life for the worst and the best.”
Scoliosis has been a character defining experience for Melamed.
“Obviously it did impact my grades a little bit at school.” Melamed said. “Like, it’s kinda difficult at first being in a back-to-neck plastic brace, but I think it really teaches you that when you put your mind to something, you can overcome anything, as cheesy as that sounds.”