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Monique Is Finally Free

HF11 Monique feature
WCH News
Posted 14 Feb 2024

7-year-old Monique spent three years in a full body cast to treat her scoliosis (an abnormal curvature of the spine), but has now said goodbye for good to her colourful casts.

Her scoliosis developed after she had life-saving surgery at 12 days old for malformed lungs (congenital lobar emphysema). Monique was initially given a removable back brace that she had to wear for 23 hours a day, however this turned out to have its challenges.

"Monique was very good at taking it off and hiding it” said WCH paediatric spinal surgeon Dr Catherine Cartwright.

Her surgeons combined with the Orthotics team at the WCH to set up a special program and, at 4 years old, Monique became the first ever patient in South Australia to be fitted for a full-body Risser cast at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital (WCH).

The process involved placing Monique on a ‘Risser’ frame to apply traction under general anaesthetic and then fitting a cast to maintain the corrected spinal position. The cast was then replaced every three months to accommodate Monique's growth.

HF11 Monique 2

– Alexandra Rimington and Monique trialling the new removable brace

In January this year, Monique finally switched from a full body cast to a removable brace which means she can finally relish some of life’s simple joys – itching her skin, taking a proper shower, and plunging into the family swimming pool.

Monique’s mum, Chantelle, is thrilled to see her daughter enjoying a newfound flexibility.

"She can now have some time out of the cast, which means we can go in the pool when it's hot, take showers, and wash our hair, rather than have to set it up at the sink in the kitchen, and just have a bit more freedom to do what normal kids would do,” she says.

Dr Cartwright was pleased to see Monique’s spinal progress allowed for the cast removal and introduction to a removable brace.

"It may never be perfectly straight, but very few of us have perfectly straight spines, and that's okay, and at this stage it's keeping her head nicely balanced over her pelvis so she can run around and jump and dance and do the splits and all those fabulous things," she says.

HF11 Monique 3

– Cannonball! Monique’s progress also means enjoying the pool once more

Monique’s clinicians now hope for her condition to remain manageable enough to remain in a brace through her teen years and avoid any surgery.

"I think she will continue in a brace for as long as we can keep her in it, and hopefully that gets her through those adolescent, puberty growth spurts," said Alexandra Rimington, Manager of Orthotics and Prosthetics, who has been closely helping Monique through her journey.

While Monique’s excellent progress with the Risser cast has resulted in the transition to a brace, her part in pioneering the Risser program has also allowed its expansion to five other children.

"The service is growing, and the outcomes are becoming better and better each time," says Alex.

For more information about accessing our Orthotics service go to: