A Scotland student’s “growing pains” turned out to be the result of a rare condition that left her spine split in two, the Daily Mail reported.

Chantelle Ross, 16, suffers from spondylolisthesis, which prevents the vertebrae at the base of the spine from joining. As a result, a growth spurt during puberty caused it to separate completely, and the spinal cord was the only thing holding the vertebrae together.

“I couldn’t believe it when I was told that I had a split spine,” Ross said. “I’d never heard of anything like it before.”

Ross’s doctors, who said that her case was the worst they had seen, had to use titanium rods, bones from her hips and marrow from other people in four surgeries to repair her back.

Ross began feeling severe pain when she was 11, but wasn’t diagnosed until March 2007. Prior to that, her parents had her examined multiple times and nothing was believed to be wrong. Doctors at Monklands hospital in Lanarskshire were shocked when an x-ray revealed her rare condition.

“All the doctors could see from previous tests was a straight spine, so they didn’t think there was anything wrong,” Agnes Ross, Chantelle’s mother, said. “They didn’t realize her spine was not joined. Chantelle was at hospital umpteen times.”

After all of the surgeries, which began in mid 2007 and included two nine-hour operations, as well as years of physiotherapy, Ross is ready to tell her story.

“For a while before I was diagnosed, I was struggling to even sit down, and I couldn’t go to PE lessons or run around with my friends,” Ross said. “The last few years have been pretty hellish, but I’ve had fantastic care from doctors and my parents,” Ross said.

Ross had a spinal fusion using donated bone marrow in March this year, which her mother hopes will be her last spinal surgery so that she can pursue her dream of becoming a hairdresser.

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