How a Showtime PR Exec's Daughter was Cured of Debilitating Scoliosis

Tommy Garcia
Showtime’s Trisha Cardoso and daughter Ava Cardoso-Smith with Dr. David Skaggs. Photographed by Tommy Garcia on Aug. 20 at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

For THR's annual Doctor's Issue: When the daughter of Showtime publicist Trisha Cardoso and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith was diagnosed with scoliosis, she quit dancing. After a spinal-fusion, however, the teen is performing, while her mother shifted her publicity skills towards helping fund L.A. Orthopedic Center.

This story first appeared in the Sept. 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Ava Cardoso-Smith, the 14-year-old daughter of Showtime publicity executive Trisha Cardoso and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, had to quit dancing a year ago due to debilitating back pain. The cause? A severe case of scoliosis, an abnormal — and sometimes fatal — curving of the spine. "It was hard for her to even sit in classroom chairs," says Cardoso, who took her daughter to see David Skaggs, the chief of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles’ Orthopaedic Center.

"When scoliosis gets to a certain point, it’s like the Leaning Tower of Pisa; it just keeps going, and she got to that point," says Skaggs, who closely monitored Cardoso-Smith’s condition for two years before performing spinal-fusion surgery on her — using a new method he pioneered — in February. Despite a minor setback, when one of Cardoso-Smith’s lungs partially collapsed the day after her procedure, she recovered remarkably quickly. In fact, largely thanks to intensive physical therapy, she was well enough to perform “You Raise Me Up” at a charity event 12 weeks later. (Skaggs says he teared up when he saw a video of the performance.) Recently, Cardoso-Smith was able to take part in swimming, lacrosse, basketball, archery and even dancing at summer camp.

"I could do everything," she says, smiling. "I didn’t realize how much pain I had been in until I played a tennis match for 30 minutes and my back didn’t hurt at all." Her mom now is lending her PR expertise to the center by hosting a fundraiser at their L.A. home Nov. 5 along with industry pals Blair and David Kohan, Matt and Katie Tarses, and Janet Crown and Steve Robinson, whose kids all have been treated at the hospital. Adds Skaggs: "We’d literally shut down tomorrow if it were not for philanthropy. We’re able to take care of kids who are uninsured because of people like Trisha and Ava."

Read more from The Hollywood Reporter's Top Doctors Issue:

Hollywood's Top Doctors 2015

Hollywood DSM: Industry Shrinks Reveal What’s Wrong With Actors, Producers, Agents and More

Stars and Their Doctors: Seth MacFarlane With the Man Who Saved His Voice for the Oscars

Stars and Their Doctors: A 'Fifty Shades of Grey' Producer and the Man Who Knows Him Inside Out

Producer Nigel Lythgoe Pays Homage to the Doctor Who Saved His Baby Grandson

Stars and Their Doctors: Charlie Sheen and the Man Who Gives Him Stem Cells

How a Showtime PR Exec's Daughter Was Cured of Debilitating Scoliosis

Yes, You Can Turn 100 in Hollywood and Still Work

Former CAA Partner: Why I Became an Agent for the Sick (Guest Column)

Dr. Fredric Brandt's Suicide Sparks Frantic Scramble for His Celebrity Patients

Nancy Snyderman Breaks Silence on Ebola Nightmare, NBC News: "People Wanted Me Dead" (Exclusive)

Hollywood Psychologist on Reasons Why A-List Couples Fail

Hollywood's Top Doctors 2015: The Dentist List

Want to Get "Expensive Urine"? Look at the Hollywood History of Health Fads

L.A.'s Westside Mystery: Higher Cancer Rates in One Zip Code, Longer Lives in Another

Manopause and Male Aging: Gavin Polone Says Just Say No to Those Drugs (Guest Column)

Ken Jeong: How to Ditch Medicine for a Career in Comedy and Diagnose Castmates (Guest Column)

Why There’s a Medical Crisis for Transgender Youth (Guest Column)

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