Tayliah Fourie’s neurosurgery journey – a tale of resilience and strength
Meet Tayliah Fourie (14), whose only wish was to walk tall and proud with her back straight.
In July 2022, just after turning 13 years old in June 2022, her family learned that the teenager (who hopes to be a paediatrician in the future) developed a condition called Scoliosis. Her dad noticed how one of her shoulders looked higher than the other. Thereafter, her parents consulted their family doctor who referred them for an X-ray. The X-ray was the first screening tool to pick up on the condition of Scoliosis. This would change the immediate course of young Tayliah’s life.
Scoliosis is a condition that affects the curvature of the spine. Patients over time develop a spine deformity that can result in pain and cosmetic insecurities, particularly in teenagers. It can be both a physically and psychologically challenging journey to being diagnosed with Scoliosis as a child. Tayliah and her family however did not let this diagnosis define them, instead, they used it as a motivating factor to try and seek help to overcome this adversity.
In need of the help of a spinal specialist, fate stepped in when in August 2022, Tayliah’s uncle went to Lenmed Ahmed Kathrada Private Hospital for a slipped disk surgery which was performed successfully by Dr. Munthree. Hearing of the doctor’s work, Crystal Fourie (Tayliah’s mother) requested Dr. Munthree’s details and shared them with their family doctor for referral purposes.
The journey of consulting with Dr. Munthree began when he advised on several interventions to lessen the pressure on Tayliah’s back. In an effort by Dr. Munthree to avoid surgery various conservative treatments were attempted including having to wear a custom-made back brace to prevent the deformity from progressing. Tayliah remained optimistic and never once let these obstacles steal her spirit through this journey.
In January 2023, Tayliah went in for her six-month check-up. She unfortunately received disappointing news. The deformity of the spine had worsened, and the spine took an S shape rather than being straight as with normal individuals. This was because of the teenage growth spurt that she underwent. Dr. Munthree assessed the deformity and made the call for her to undergo spine surgery to correct the spine deformity. The surgery was daunting as she needed a fusion procedure for her entire spine. Tayliah’s surgery was on the 22nd of February 2023 and was 8 hours long. She was in ICU for one week and then moved to a normal ward for another week.
The procedure was a daunting experience, and it would have been understandable for Tayliah to be scared. However, she showed incredible bravery and resilience throughout the entire process. Tayliah and her family trusted her doctors and embraced the idea of a brighter, pain-free future. Crystal exclaims; “Today she does not need a brace. She does not experience any pain. She is a confident young woman. The surgery went very well, and this has changed her life forever!”
Noting the support received from Lenmed, Crystal shared how the staff became like family and would say: “Mommy you need to go home and rest, we will take care of her” but also understood that being a mom was not easy considering what Tayliah was going through.
With the passing of several months and various milestones noted, Tayliah’s first walk after the operation was an accomplishment. She can now run for a longer distance and not be out of breath.
Crystal reflects on Tayliah’s successful surgery by saying: “We have hope for tomorrow and believe that nothing is impossible. A slight chance is possible even if given a 50/50 chance.” The family has also expressed gratitude to Dr. Munthree, the theatre, radiology and ICU teams, the nursing staff and their heads (Sister Dada, Sister Dawn and Sister Lara) and physiotherapist, Samantha Booysen for their unwavering efforts to help Tayliah walk tall again.
Dr. Munthree completed his undergraduate degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Cum Laude). He subsequently completed his Fellowship in Neurosurgery and Master of Medicine in Neurosurgery degrees concurrently at the University of Witwatersrand. He thereafter did a fellowship in spine surgery at the University of Stellenbosch. As a specialist neurosurgeon, he is adept at diagnosing and treating complex neurological conditions. These include brain tumours and spinal deformities to name a few. Dr. Munthree looks forward to providing his skills and expertise to all his patients at the Lenmed Ahmed Kathrada Private Hospital.