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Sunday, 5 November 2017
Britain's Got Talent star with agonising curved spine is back in the dance studio after Simon Cowell pays for £175k surgery
Performing on Britain’s Got Talent in front of 12 million people, Julia Carlile was convinced it would be the last time she would dance.
The schoolgirl’s lungs were being crushed by her spine as the scoliosis she had battled since birth made every move agony.
Viewers heard how the only operation available on the NHS would leave Julia unable to dance afterwards, making it was one of the most emotional moments in the show’s history.
Julia Carlile's curved spine threatened to end her dance career
While she and the MerseyGirls did not win after reaching the final of the show, Julia went back home to The Wirral, Merseyside, with something more valuable – a promise from Simon Cowell that he would pay £175,000 for two operations in the US.
And now, three months after her last surgery, Julia is back in dance class with her friends.
Simon Cowell paid for Julia to have operations in the USA
Speaking for the first time since she returned to training, Julia, 15, says: “Dancing again, surrounded by my friends, is the best feeling in the world.
“I was desperate to perform again, but when I got to class I was really nervous.
“I didn’t know how my body would cope and I was scared of hurting myself.
“But when I went in everyone walked up and hugged me. I was so pleased to be back. It was overwhelming.”
Julia is practising as often as possible with the MerseyGirls, and in just four months will be performing in a new live show alongside BGT legends, including Paul Potts and Susan Boyle.
Julia shot to fame with the MerseyGirls on Britain's Got Talent
It is a bright future she once could never have imagined.
Julia , who lives with mum Kate, 39, an admin worker, and sister Alice, 17, was born with a curved spine, known as scoliosis, which got steadily worse and would have ended her dancing career if left untreated.
Fusion surgery available on the NHS meant having a rod in her back, which would have left her too stiff to dance.
Her only hope was to go to the US for surgery to screw a cord to her spine, straightening it while allowing her the flexibility to dance.
Julia, Alice and the rest of the MerseyGirls, Poppy Gerrard, 15, Annie Winstanley, 17, and Rebecca Jordan, 16, entered BGT hoping to win the £250,000 to pay for the operations.
The teen in hospital after an operation to treat her scoliosis
They reached the final but narrowly missed out on the cash after a chair Julia stood on during the routine started to move beneath her feet. It was a heartbreaking end to what threatened to be Julia’s last performance.
But then Simon met the girls backstage and offered to pay.
Julia says: “When Simon said, ‘It’s going to happen’, I was in tears. I thought the Britain’s Got Talent final was the last dance I was ever going to do.
“By then my back was really painful. As the curve in my spine got worse it started crushing my lungs, so dancing became really difficult.
"So if it wasn’t for Simon I probably would have had the fusion by now and I’d be recovering at home.
Julia is now dancing again and will join Britain’s Got Talent's The Big Celebration
"I’d be a mess because I’d know I wasn’t going to dance again. I’d be like, ‘What do I do now?’”
Instead, Julia flew to New York on July 23 and had the first six-hour operation two days later, followed by a second on August 6.
Surgeons had to deflate one of her lungs while they moved her spine, and the rehabilitation has been very tough.
She says: “Recovering was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There were days when I didn’t want to get out of my hospital bed because it hurt so much, but I reminded myself I had to do it if I wanted to dance again.”
Julia managed a few simple steps just nine days after her second operation and after two months was able to stop taking painkillers.
Her surgery was paid for by Simon Cowell after he learnt of her agony
But while she only suffers the occasional ache now, she still has to push her body to recover her dancing physique.
She does breathing exercises 10 times a day to improve her lung capacity, swims regularly to rebuild muscles, and does daily back stretches to reshape her spine.
Julia says: “I have to push my body where it doesn’t want to go to straighten my curve. It gets quite sore, but the pain is nowhere near as bad as it was before.”
Julia returned to ballet class earlier this month. Her first aim was to build core strength, and her dance teacher had to simplify many of the moves as she could not twist or turn.
Now she’s doing more and more each time, and is training with the MerseyGirls twice a week.
The MerseyGirls are going on tour after their meteoric Britain's Got Talent success
But she was devastated to miss out on performing with the MerseyGirls at the National Reality Television Awards last month.
Julia says: “It was so hard to watch. They looked amazing. All I wanted was to be out there with them. I can do most things again now, I’m just not allowed to do any big jumps yet.”
Julia has been cautious, naturally, but doctors say if her scan goes well next month she can even do backflips again.
She says: “I get more scared before trying new moves now. I’ve come so far, I don’t want anything to go wrong. Once you’ve done it you start to believe in yourself a bit more. Eventually everything should be easier than it was before.”
Julia wrote to Simon to thank him for funding the operations and was thrilled when he called her.
She says: “I told him how he had changed my life. I’m so grateful for everything he has done. Then Simon asked me how I was doing and when I said I was finding it hard not dancing, he told me to make sure I took it easy and didn’t rush things.
“He said when he waved at the start of the next America’s Got Talent it would be for me. When I thanked him he said I didn’t need to, he couldn’t have stood by and done nothing. He is amazing.”
Big-hearted Simon had another surprise in store for Julia. She and the MerseyGirls are going to be the star guests for Britain's Got Talent, The Big Celebration.
The two charity concerts at Liverpool’s Empire Theatre in February will raise money for Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, which cared for Julia after her diagnosis.
They will be joined by some of BGT’s legendary names including SuBo, Paul Potts, Collabro, Attraction and magician Lance Corporal Richard Jones.
Ashleigh will also be there with new dog Sully, who is following in Pudsey’s pawprints, as well as Star Wars dancers Boogie Storm, magician Jamie Raven, singers Lucy Kay, Sarah Ikumu, and Richard and Adam, and martial artist Jesse-Jane McParland.
Julia says: “Appearing on Britain’s Got Talent has made my dreams come true.
“Now the MerseyGirls can carry on dancing for ever and ever, which is what we always dreamed of.”
Tickets to Britain’s Got Talent, The Big Celebration go on sale from Ticketmaster on Friday at 9am, priced from £21.