A COURAGEOUS teenager is facing a the prospect of fulfilling her dream of being a top model after fighting back from a crippling spinal condition which threatened to leave her wheelchair-bound.
Fifteen-year-old Imogene Lewis, from the Black Isle in the Highlands, had 19 titanium bolts and two titanium rods to treat a severe curvature in her spine during a gruelling and agonising six-and-a-half hour operation.
Now, she has recently realised her dream of walking down a catwalk and a major fundraising event – and has been approached by two talent scouts who work in the fashion world in France, one whose client is the world-famous Chanel brand.
They are due to arrive in Scotland later this month to meet with Imogen and her proud family.
The teenager is also determined to pay back the dedicated medical teams at Edinburgh’s Royal Hospital for Sick Children who helped her with the surgery and rehabilitation.
She also wants to raise awareness about her condition, Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis.
But due to my determination and ambition, I am now back riding my horse and looking to progress my modelling careerImogen Lewis
She said: “Things are now great again, but three years ago it was all very different after doctors told me about my curvature.
“When I was first diagnosed I was extremely scared I wouldn’t be able to do all the fun things other kids my age were doing.
“But due to my determination and ambition, I am now back riding my horse and looking to progress my modelling career.
“I now want to prove to those with the condition that anything is possible.”
Her desire to be a world famous model was put in severe jeopardy just three years ago when she went to the doctor’s suffering from a high temperature.
Mum Rosemarie explained: “The doctor lifted her t-shirt up to listen to her back. She leaned over and we could see her spine curving. It was pulling her ribs around her back. She was also already getting a hump on her back.
“I was in complete shock. The doctor said it was serious. Things moved fast and she was sent to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, and they found the curvature was an aggressive form of scoliosis.
“They pretty much rushed her to hospital to have the operation, or she was have spent the rest of her life in a wheelchair.
“It was that bad. They said the operation was worse and more tricky that having heart surgery.
“They opened and her spine was exposed from the top of her neck to her tailbone to allow her spine to be placed back in position.
“They had to take bone from the back of her hip to help fuse parts of the spine, then they put two titanium rods and 19 bolts to keep the spine straight.”
Imogene had to take a year off school for her rehabilitation, which involved her learning to walk again.
She had to give up riding her horse, her favourite past-time, and feared she may never ride again.
Rosemarie added: “The surgeon and those who provided her after care were fantastic. They said her back was now the strongest part of her body.
“When she first had her diagnosis we thought that was the end of her dreams, but we couldn’t let Imogene see our worry. We just had to be strong and keep fighting.
“Now Imogene is turning the negative into a positive and the future is looking hopeful. Watch this face, it is going to be the face of the future.
“The experience has made her very determined. We are so proud of her.”
Imogene realised the first part of her dream by taking to the catwalk at the Highland Fashion Week Fairy Ball, which recognises emerging designers and talent.
She takes part in another fundraising fashion show later this month, and then will be visited by the talent scouts.
Her mum said: “Imogene is a shy girl, but when she gets up on the catwalk she is completely different.”
And Imogene added: “I want to raise awareness of scoliosis and be a role model to others who have the condition and show them what is possible.
“I also want to fundraise on behalf of the hospital who treated me to pay back what they have done for me.
“I am looking forward to the future now and it seems very hopeful.”
The Cirque Du Fashion Show, at the Eastgate Shopping Centre, Inverness, takes place on 18 November, and proceed will benefit Highland Children’s Unit Appeal.