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Fundraiser launched for Weald of Kent Grammar School pupil and gymnast from Tonbridge

A teenage gymnast is hoping for a costly spinal surgery which will allow her to continue her passion.

Weald of Kent Grammar School pupil Charmaine Humba, 15, from Tonbridge, has been left in constant pain whilst walking thanks to a curve in her spine.

Charmaine Humba at a regional gymnastic competition in 2017
Charmaine Humba at a regional gymnastic competition in 2017

She is on the NHS waiting list for surgery to straighten her spine using titanium rods, but this will severely impact her ability to continue with gymnastics.

Her family are hoping for a privately-funded operation in Germany, which they say would allow her to continue the sport.

The life-changing treatment costs £37,000 and Charmaine's family have turned to fundraising with the aim of securing the sum, so far raising around £4,700.

A provisional date next month, October 1, has been set for the surgery but mum Nancy Humba is asking whether it can be pushed back to allow more time for fundraising.

Mrs Humba said: "The doctors say to her 'you can carry on doing gymnastics until the operation as long as your body feels capable, but she says 'mum what's the point of doing it if I know I won't be able to do it after the operation?' You can see her sadness."

Grammar school pupil Charmaine Humba is a keen gymnast
Grammar school pupil Charmaine Humba is a keen gymnast

Charmaine started gymnastics at seven-years-old and has taken part in regional competitions, even winning the South-East Regional floor and vault competition in 2017.

The Weald of Kent Gymnastics Club member aspires to compete professionally and also does the high jump in athletics.

In 2017, after complaining of shoulder pain, a 17 degree curve in her spine was found, caused by idiopathic scoliosis.

Doctors said it was nothing to worry about and her spine did not need to be corrected as she was still growing.

However, two years later the curve had drastically increased to up to 57 degrees, despite Charmaine wearing a brace for a year.

Mrs Humba said: "It had grown and everyone started panicking, they fast-tracked us to Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital. Within two weeks we had an appointment to see a spinal surgery specialist."

Charmaine Humba is a keen gymnast. She is pictured here in 2019
Charmaine Humba is a keen gymnast. She is pictured here in 2019

She was placed on the waiting list for a spinal fusion operation, which was supposed to happen in 2020, but was delayed thanks to Covid-19, and has been pushed back to this year.

Mrs Humba says that in order for the spine to stay straight, titanium rods are attached to both sides of the spine by screws drilled in her bones.

But this will affect the flexibility of spine and make her back rigid, severely affecting her ability to do the sports she loves.

They have recently been offered Anterior Scoliosis Correction (ASC), a treatment regarded as less invasive, and uses flexible cords unlike the rigid metal bars.

Although an ASC trial is starting in the UK this year, Charmaine is too old to be eligible.

The surgery would be carried out in Germany and the family want to raise £42,000, to also cover the cost of quarantining in Germany.

The fundraiser was launched in late August and so far has raised £4,711.

Mrs Humba said: "The operation procedure will have to be done whilst her spine is still flexible and can still be manipulated into shape so we will need to act very fast."

Charmaine's back problems have left her in constant pain whilst walking and she cannot walk for a long time without needing a rest.

She's had physiotherapy therapy sessions to help and she also has exercises to prepare her for gymnastics, but the pain still remains.

When she's doing gymnastics however, she "fights through the pain," her mum says.

To support Chaimaine, click here.

Read more: All the latest news from Tonbridge

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