Dominik Vugrinec has been diagnosed with scoliosis, a condition caused by an abnormal sideways curve of the spine. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/XPRESS

Abu Dhabi: A 14-year-old boy in Abu Dhabi has shown that a bend in the road is not the end of it.

Dominik Vugrinec has been diagnosed with scoliosis, a condition caused by an abnormal sideways curve of the spine. But instead of despairing, the grade eight student is spreading awareness about the condition through a community project.

“I don’t want anybody else to suffer from it so I am educating students and parents about scoliosis,” said the Croatian, who studies at Al Raha International School.

Under Dominik’s initiative, the IB school run by Taaleem will screen about 100 students from Grade 5 for early diagnosis of scoliosis. Doctors say it can be painful and debilitating if not detected early.

“Shortly we will extend the free screening to include students of grade 2,” said Jules Murray, Director of Development and Admissions at Raha International School.

Bigger plans

But Dominik has bigger plans. “I want to take it to all 10 Taaleem schools in the UAE. I am also planning to approach the Ministry of Education so that they can raise awareness about scoliosis among public and private school students,” he said.

The teenager has already started work on the project. As the first step he has roped in his doctor, Hans J. Poessel, Orthopaedic Surgeon at the German Medical Centre, to give a talk to parents during one of the coffee mornings at school.

He also made and distributed posters and flyers about scoliosis.

“I was really impressed by his talk on scoliosis. I have never heard about it before. I must say that what he is doing is exceptional,” said Sarthak Saha, Dominik’s classmate.

Citing studies on the condition, Dominik says it is important for children to be checked for scoliosis.

“Early diagnosis is the key to fighting it,” he said.

Dominik visited a doctor shortly after his ribs started protruding out.

“My spine is curved by 10 degrees. Though I cannot reverse it, I can build muscles and stop it from bending further. But if the backbone is curved up to 30 degrees, you need to implant a rod inside you. Then you are practically a robot.”

Dr Hans said in 95 per cent of cases the causes are unknown. “But we know that one growth centre of one spine bone is causing the rotation, so overuse is discussed but not proven.”

According to him, the first signs of scoliosis can be size difference, gait anomalies, clumsy running, one-sided hip, knee or ankle problems mostly in running, asymmetric development of rib etc.

“The prevalence of scoliosis in the UAE cannot be identified because insurance companies in the UAE are reluctant to cover the cost of treatment if the condition of the patient is not painful,” Dr. Hans said.

Dominik’s father Tomisluv Vugrinec, a pilot with Etihad, said he is still struggling to get his son’s physiotherapy sessions covered by insurance.