Updated: Apr 6, 2020
By Brooklyn Schultz
On December 3, 16-year-old Shae Smith, Miss Missouri’s Outstanding Teen 2019, underwent surgery for Idiopathic Scoliosis, or a lateral curvature of the spine with no known cause. The curve of her spine was 60 degrees before surgery and post-op images.
“I was told four years ago that I would have a rod put in my back when my curve reached 50 degrees because that’s the guidelines in traditional medicine,” Shae said. “I tried hard to avoid that because I have a love for dance and softball and I didn’t want to lose back flexibility.”
Her mother Angie Smith said she looked for other options besides surgery for her daughter. And waited.
Miss Missouri’s Outstanding Teen 2019 16-year-old Shae Smith was crowned on June 14. (Special to Branson Globe)
“I was that mom who went on a mission to find alternative treatments,” she said. “I watched the struggle she went through wearing a hard shell brace for 23 hours a day, the tears she shed and the pain she lived with. Unfortunately, last year her curve began to progress drastically. Along with that came pain. No parent wants to see their child go through surgery, especially back surgery. However, the day she came to us and told us she couldn't remember the last time she didn't hurt, was the day we knew it was time. She was ready and she was strong enough to handle it.”
Shea, who held the title of Miss Branson’s Outstanding Teen, was crowned Miss Missouri’s Outstanding Teen Missouri 2019 in June.
“I was blessed to have won the preliminary talent award for my jazz dance to “September” [and then] the National Children’s Miracle Maker Award for raising over $18,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals during my year as Miss Branson’s Outstanding Teen. I also placed fourth runner up to Miss America’s Outstanding Teen.”
Shae's platform this year is called ‘The Gift of a Miracle.’ She dedicates her platform to her two siblings, Cali and Canyon. Both of whom passed away before their first birthday.
“Taken too soon. My sister Cali blessed my parent’s life for nine months and my brother Canyon touched our lives for only one short month [before passing away]” Shae said. “During Cali and Canyon’s illnesses, the time we spent as a family in the CMN (Children’s Miracle Network) Hospital in Springfield left a mark, but it was a mark of love,”
The care the family received from the staff and volunteers eased their struggles and softened the pain.
Shae Smith, Miss Missouri’s Outstanding Teen 2019, looks at a model of a spine to trace her surgery for Idiopathic Scoliosis, or a lateral curvature of the spine with no known cause when she undergoes it December 3. (Special to Branson Globe)
“Later my youngest brother River spent three weeks in the NICU and
we were overwhelmed by the dedication and care,” Shae said. “However, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals don’t think this is extraordinary because this is what they do every day,” she said. “It’s important that they’re able to keep doing it, which is why I’m a dedicated fundraiser for children’s charities and CMN Hospitals through my platform, ‘The Gift of a Miracle.’”
Pageant Director Steve Wilson said, although Shae did a lot of volunteer work with Children’s Miracle Network, he did not realize how much she invested in reaching out to others that had scoliosis. “As a Director I assured them Shae’s health came first and the Outstanding Teen Program appearances would be delayed for a later date in the year,” Wilson said. “The prognosis was so good that it appeared that at the most Shae would be recovering at home during a two-month period after the surgery, and then gradually resume her activities in dance, etc. You would never know through her dance and sports activities that she had such a condition.”
It was very important for her to continue to play sports and dance so her parents sought out a very innovative Scoliosis specialist in New Jersey that offered them a plan that did not involve inserting rods in her back.
Due to the severity of the curve of her spine, the Judges at Miss America’s Outstanding Teen asked her many questions about how she did the things she did in her daily life with no outward struggles.
Shae Smith, Miss Missouri’s Outstanding Teen 2019, compares before and after Xray on her spine. (Special to Branson Globe)
“When she danced in the national competition, I truly believe that they were shocked at what a young competitor could do in her situation on the stage,” said Wilson. “She is probably one of the strongest persons I have ever met at such a young age and a true warrior, always thinking of others first.”
The surgery has had a “huge impact on my year as a titleholder” and for the upcoming state pageant.
Shae started competing in the outstanding teen program when she was 13. She says she has gained so many life qualities over the past four years.
“I gained speaking skills, interview skills, confidence, life-long friends and I have had the opportunity to touch many lives, Shae said. I am forever grateful for this experience. I would like to tell other teens going through corrective surgery or battling it with a brace to stay strong. It is so easy to lose your confidence and want to try and hide your back from others.”
This year Shae will physically be able to dance again and be a part of the production, and she has a message to share.
“I have had the opportunity to help so many other girls around the state and the country.” Shae said “There are other girls who compete in pageants who are also living with scoliosis and are now making it their platform as well.”