A PRINCESS bride who paid tribute to scoliosis sufferers around the world by showcasing her own surgery scars on her wedding day, has catapulted a woman from Alton into the spotlight. Laura Campbell, 33, had similar surgery to Princess Eugenie as a teenager – and after more than a decade supporting fellow scoliosis patients, has told her story live on television. Awareness of the condition rocketed after Princess Eugenie appeared in a specially designed bridal gown with a low back, which framed scars left by corrective surgery when she was just 12.
On Saturday, Laura appeared on BBC Breakfast with Louise Minchin and Jon Kay, to talk about the impact of Princess Eugenie’s wedding dress and her work with Scoliosis Association UK (SAUK).
Laura said: “I was so nervous! On Friday I started work at midday, so I just had time to watch Princess Eugenie arrive at Windsor on the television.
“I watched it with my mum and we were both a bit emotional when she stepped out of the car and we saw the dress. It was fantastic. She is an amazing role model.
“It was later in the day that the national director at SAUK rang me to say the BBC had asked for a spokesman to appear on BBC Breakfast which is filmed in Manchester and would I do it.
“I was shocked, but I agreed. It was such an amazing opportunity for the charity, but as soon as I put the phone down I freaked out.
“I was incredibly nervous right up until I sat down on the sofa at the studios, but the presenters were so lovely and when the interview started the adrenaline kicked in which got me through it.
“It was so surreal. There were all these cameras and lights and I just kept thinking of all my family and friends who I knew were watching at home.”
Laura was diagnosed with scoliosis when she was just 13. She underwent five operations to correct the 72º curve and twist in her spine. She has broken her back twice and half of her spine is now fused with titanium rods and screws.
The first operation lasted 10 hours and involved surgeons removing a rib and deflating a lung to gain access to her spine. She spent a week in the High Dependency Unit following that operation and then had to face surgery four more times over the next few years.
Laura added: “Around the time I had my second operation I was feeling really low. I discovered SAUK online and I started to get involved as a volunteer.
“It can be quite an isolating condition and I found that speaking to other scoliosis patients was really helpful so I started to organise meetings.
“At that time there wasn’t that much help and support available to people, so I was really keen to bring patients together.
“That led to my surgeon asking me to speak at a meeting about paediatric spinal surgery and one of the things I talked about was the clinical photography which is needed as part of the preparation for the operation.
“At that time you were only allowed to wear knickers and the photographer was male, so at 13 that was just awful.
“On the back of that speech I worked on a project with the team at the Royal Stoke to change policy in favour of same-sex photographers.
“Seeing that change really inspired me to carry on and do more.
“A couple of years later, I met scoliosis nurse practitioner Stephanie Brown and together we launched Back2Back, a support group specifically for patients at the Royal Stoke, where I attend both as a patient and as the regional representative for SAUK.
“We’ve been shortlisted for a Nursing Times award for ‘transforming the pathway for children’s spinal services’ and should find out more about that later this month.”
A student at Painsley Catholic College, Laura went on to study at Bath University and is a former Times and Echo journalist.
She left the newspaper in 2016 to work with medical research teams at Keele University in a role which combined her newsroom communication skills with patient liaison and insight from her years as a volunteer.
Laura said: “I was really shy as a teenager. Working at the paper helped me to talk to lots of different people from all kinds of backgrounds and that has definitely helped with my work at Keele.
“My job is basically to make sure the findings of the latest research is passed on to medical professionals and to take insight from patients and feed that into the work around improving patient care.
“Learning to ask the right questions and record what people say is really important and when I combined it with my years as a patient and as a volunteer, it just seemed like the perfect job for me.
“I have to make sure the right stakeholders have the right knowledge and can use that to create change.
“When I felt shy and low about the scars I’ve been left with and the chronic pain I’ve been left with, I found working with other patients gave me a way to turn that into a positive.
“I’ve met some incredibly brave and inspiring people along the way and my experiences with scoliosis have made me stronger – my scars are part of what’s made me the person I am today.
“And – unbelievably – all of that has propelled me to a television studio to talk about a royal wedding and tell my own story to more than a million people!”
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