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My Journey as a Teen With Scoliosis

It all started when my twin sister and I went to get our physicals before the cheer season started. As the examination went on, he noticed I had curvature to my spine. The doctor said it was no big deal, that if we went to Shriner’s Hospital for Children they would get me taken care of. I was calm about the entire situation, because in my head it was no big deal. So we made an appointment with Shriner’s and the appointment was about three months away. I didn’t worry about it; I went to school, went to cheer, did my homework and just lived my life.

When the day of the appointment came, we had to wake up early because we had an 8 a.m. appointment and it was about a two hour drive to Shriner’s from our house. I remember how amazed I was at how big the building was, and I stopped and just looked at it for what felt like forever.

The day started with checking in, then x-rays, and then seeing the doctor and him asking questions and doing an examination. It was all the usual stuff a doctor does, so there was no fear or worry at all. After I got my x-ray we had to go back in to talk to the doctor, and he said I needed a back brace. That made me a little scared, but my mother reassured me it would be OK.

A month later when we went back to Shriner’s to see the orthopedic doctor about my back brace I was a little bit scared, but the guy who did it was so nice and he took the time to answer all my questions and ease the worries in my mind. He took measurements and had me put on this special undershirt to put the plaster of Paris over for the shape of the brace. We then had to go back a month later when it was completed to try it on and for him to make any minor adjustments. I had to wear it for 23 hours a day, only taking it off to shower. It was a lot bigger of an adjustment than I thought it would be. But I kept pushing on with the thought that this would get me better.

I faithfully wore my braces in hopes my back would heal. After about a year and a half when I went to Shriner’s for a checkup, my doctor gave my mother and I the news we didn’t want to hear. I would need surgery to correct my scoliosis because the brace wasn’t stopping the curve from progressing. I was scared and upset and angry. I was angry because I did everything I was supposed to do and it didn’t stop the scoliosis from progressing. I was upset because I knew it made my mother upset, and because my twin sister didn’t have to get the surgery like I did. I was scared because it is a major surgery and would change my life.

We made the surgery date as soon as we could, which was October. Now it was only February at this point, so they wanted us to return to Shriner’s in May to see how I was doing. As we made the two hour journey back home, it was a quiet car ride; the future of surgery weighed heavy on my mind. But life had to continue for me, and so it did. It helped me to forget about the surgery in my near future.

When we went back in May, they were concerned how quickly the curve was progressing, so I needed surgery sooner and they put me on the list to call when people rescheduled their surgery date. We went home and it was summertime, so there wasn’t school to keep my mind occupied. I tried my hardest to keep my mind busy by hanging out with my friends and going to church, but I was still fearful and the surgery weighed heavy on my mind.

I remember the morning of July 29, 2011 very well. No, it is not my surgery date. My sister and I were with my friends Kamrin and Sierra (who are also twins) and we had a wonderful night of painting nails and watching movies and just having fun. Their mother came into the room and told me that my mother was on the phone and needed to talk to me. I didn’t think it was a big deal, but there were tears in my friends’ mother’s eyes. My mom told me that I would be getting the surgery on the 31st. I was shocked because that was only two days away and I didn’t feel prepared. So I went home from my friends’ house and we packed to go to the hospital for the surgery. We left super early the next day to do all the pre-surgery things.

When they measured my curve the day before my surgery it was at 80 degrees, and the doctors wondered how I walked in the room and wasn’t in constant and excruciating pain. It scared me when they said that. They gave the instructions on how to do self-care the night before the surgery. I took a shower (because I wouldn’t be able to for a while after) and my mom let me be in there as long as I wanted. She never knew I spent most of that shower crying. I ate a nice meal and some snacks because I wasn’t allowed to eat after midnight, though I had a snack at 11:45 which was a bad idea. I went to sleep to be up and at the hospital at 5:30 the next morning.

The next morning we woke up, went to the hospital and I got vitals done. They asked me and my mom all kinds of questions. They took my mom to go sign paperwork, and they had me put a gown on. In that moment in that room, putting my gown on, it all hit me and I started to have a horrible panic attack. The nurse calmly came in, gently hugged me and gave me some medicine to help me calm down. Two wonderful friends from my church named Lisa and Linda came and prayed over me. I was then put under for the surgery to take place.

The surgery took eight hours, and halfway through they had me wiggle my toes to make sure I wasn’t paralyzed. The placed screws, hooks, and rods as well as fused my spine. I had a S curve(Meaning my spine looked like an S) so they had to fuse my entire spine. They also broke all of my ribs on my right side and corrected them, because they were deformed from the severe scoliosis.

I stayed at Shriner’s for two and a half weeks and had some breathing complications from my rib issue. But I did the physical therapy, occupational therapy, walking, and breathing therapy. The spinal fusion takes a year to completely fuse to your spine, so you have to be incredibly careful the first year. But they gave us a list and we followed it. I recovered beautifully and I got back to living my life fairly quickly.

Shriner’s Hospital for Children made the process as easy for me as possible. And I couldn’t be more grateful for all of the wonderful work that they do at Shriner’s, from the doctors and nurses to the volunteers. They make sure children get the medical treatments and things they need, and that families do not have to worry about the cost. I am forever grateful to Shriner’s Hospitals for Children.

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Photo via Shriner’s Hospital.

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