Standing Taller: Riverside Prep Student’s Journey with Scoliosis

Katie L. Martin
Nurses at Riverside Preparatory Academy knew something was wrong when Nigerian student, Sulyman Daura, visited the clinic for a routine sports physical in the fall of 2022. One of the nurses noted his shoulders were uneven and asked Daura if he had any discomfort. For Daura, the pain was a normal day-to-day issue he had learned to endure.

Daura’s symptoms began to worsen as he had difficulty not only playing soccer but doing simple tasks like standing at attention during drill and putting on socks and shoes. After a referral to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA), Daura was diagnosed with scoliosis with a 63 percent curvature of the spine. It became apparent that Daura’s condition would only worsen if surgery was not pursued. 

Over the next several months, Riverside nurse, Analeigh Warwick, accompanied Daura to numerous doctors appointments and kept Daura’s parents informed of his condition. Through the tireless efforts of Warwick and Dr. Devito, a well-respected orthopedic pediatric surgeon at CHOA, the cost of Daura’s surgery was fully covered. 

Soon, surgery was scheduled, and Daura’s parents applied for travel visas. Unfortunately, their visas were not approved in time for surgery, so Riverside nurses Warwick, Christy Estrella, and Beth Dupree stepped up and organized a schedule of care for Daura’s surgery and recovery. Daura’s parents were put at ease knowing their son was under the extensive care of Riverside’s nurses.

On the morning of April 24, 2023, Warwick drove Daura to CHOA for the long-awaited surgery. While most teenagers would be nervous facing such a serious surgery, according to Warwick, Daura remained calm and anticipated the day when he would be able to play soccer again. “I was calm through the whole process because I knew it had to be done,” he explained. 

Following the extensive surgery, Daura spent several days in the hospital with Riverside nurses on rotation to keep careful watch 24/7. Daura expressed gratitude for Warwick and the other nurses, saying, “Mrs. Ana helped me so much. She was always there for me to take care of me, take me to my appointments, and make sure everything was alright. All of the nurses were helpful.”

Daura was quickly able to tell a difference in his body. “Immediately following surgery, I could already tell I had more motion. The first day following surgery I started walking around the hospital. The second day I was able to walk up a flight of stairs,” he said. The curvature of Daura’s spine improved so significantly that he grew at least two inches immediately following the procedure. 

When Daura returned to the Riverside campus, he had to stay in the academy’s infirmary for several weeks. “Sulyman never complained about the situation. It was amazing to see the way he handled it,” Warwick said.

During his stay in the infirmary, Daura was not only cared for by Riverside nurses but also by his fellow cadets. Multiple young men visited during this time, encouraging Daura, bringing him snacks, and making sure he didn’t overexert himself. “As soon as I got back to school, the whole soccer team was there to support me, making sure I was doing good…they’re like a brotherhood, and we all have each other’s back,” he said.

Daura continues to progress and the curvature in his spine is now between five and ten percent. To Daura’s delight, he was also cleared to play soccer in the spring. “I feel like I’m back to my old self. I keep thinking about how I got here. Just a few months ago, the hardest thing was to put on socks. Now I can put on socks without pain,” Daura said. “I appreciate the simple things in life because I used to not be able to do them.”

“Parents entrust their kids to us – whether it’s giving them something as simple as a bandaid or having the opportunity to impact a kid like Sulyman in a way that will alter his entire life,” Warwick said as she reflected on her role at Riverside. “They know they can come to us and be supported. We have the opportunity to make a lasting impact on the boys,” she continued.

“No words can express how grateful we are to Analeigh Warwick, the other nurses at Riverside, and the Riverside family,” said Daura’s mother.

Now standing straight and four inches taller, Daura looks forward to the soccer season and pursuing the everyday activities of a typical teen. “It was a tough experience, but I learned to appreciate every little thing,” he said. This gratitude is evidence that this exceptional young man’s journey is only just beginning.