Girl with 'hunchback' condition became addicted to painkillers, aged 14
A schoolgirl has revealed how she became addicted to painkillers by the age of 14 because she suffered from the same 'hunchback' condition that afflicted King Richard III.
Louiselle Morris, from Cardiff, was 13 when her crippling back pain was diagnosed as scoliosis - an extreme curving of the spine.
She was told that left untreated, it could lead to fatal heart and lung problems, so she was given a morphine-like drug for the pain.
However, she was in so much agony she became addicted to the drugs because they were the only way she could get through each day.
Her mother Susan, 49, said: "Three months after she was diagnosed, Louiselle had changed. She had gone from being a typical, active teenage girl to living life as an 80-year-old woman, confined to the four walls of her bedroom.
"She would try walking around, lying on her back and on her front, but nothing helped."
Doctors prescribed Louiselle a strong painkiller, Tramadol, to cope. The drug is similar to morphine and is only used as a short term answer to chronic pain. Yet she was so reliant on painkillers that she was taking four Tramadol and eight paracetemol every day.
Her mother said: "She was in a terrible state, it was horrendous. She lost so much confidence and I was desperate. I tried everything to get her off the medication.
"To see her in so much pain was so scary. I would have driven to the end of the world to try and help her.
"I felt so let down by the people who should have helped me. How could they leave a child to get into this state? How could they allow a teenage girl to become reliant on drugs?"
Louiselle was in so much distress from her addiction that her mum decided to find another way of helping her.
She said: "By the time I found a clinic that could help Louiselle, I was at breaking point.
"I remember speaking to the clinic, Scoliosis SOS, who understood everything I was saying. They knew how I felt as a parent and how traumatic it could be for the child involved."
They drove six hours to the clinic with Louiselle doubled over in pain on the back seat of the car. Four days after the consultation, she was put on an intensive exercise therapy course, comprising six hours of strengthening and stretching each day for four weeks.
She was also prescribed individual physiotherapy treatment and taught more about scoliosis and the effect it has on the body.
Louiselle said: "I was going through withdrawal because I had been taking so many tablets. It was one of the worst pains you can imagine. My whole body felt like it was turning in on me, it was absolutely horrendous.
"I was throwing up violently for about a week and had nausea and muscular cramps."
But by the end of the second week of therapy, Louiselle was off the painkillers.
Her mother said: "Tramadol is so highly addictive and the person taking it has to want to stop, or else you haven't got a hope in hell."
Louiselle said: "The exercise therapy changed my life. I have no idea where I would have been if my mum had not found the centre when she did."
Louiselle now returns to the clinic every two months for a 'top-up' session and instead of numbing the pain with drugs, she now exercises or takes a hot bath to ease her aching back.
She said: "I can now manage a day without feeling like I've been hit by a sledgehammer. Since the physiotherapy I can go to university without being in too much pain. The clinic has given me the confidence to believe in myself. I feel like I am in control again and scoliosis no longer rules my life.
"I don't feel like a hunchback anymore. I am normal and I can finally look forward to my future."
For more information go to ScoliosisSOS.com.