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13 Things No One Told Me About Having Scoliosis Surgery

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Seventeen years ago, I found myself dealing with idiopathic scoliosis and two major spinal curves: one was 74 degrees and the other was 55 degrees. It was the severity of my condition, and the fact that I really had no other option, that pushed me to undergo surgery. For so many reasons, having surgery was the best thing I could have done, but even still, there are a few things no one told me.

Here’s my list:

1. When the morphine began to fade, I freaked out.

By the time I had surgery, I had dealt with spinal pain for a good three years; I was convinced I could handle any pain. I thought I could deal with anything. Boy, was I wrong. It hurts. It hurts like a sonofabitch. The level of pain was astronomical. As soon as my magical morphine button was taken away from me the devil itself came out of me. I was seriously freaking out. I was not in control of my body, my mind, my pain, and it was tough. I couldn’t sleep. I thought I was going to die from the pain and discomfort, and it got so much worse before it ever got better.

2. Death by sneezing.

Sneezing, I think, was one of the worst things that happened to me after having surgery. Before I had surgery, I had this super vicious, lion-like sneeze. I would sneeze and you could definitely hear it. But after surgery, sneezing felt like someone was sawing at my ribs and lungs. It. Was. The. Worst. Feeling. Ever. Naturally, to avoid the horrific pain I felt every time I sneezed, I simply held it in as much as possible, which led to my current mouse-like sneeze. It is so pathetic most people do not even realize I am sneezing.

3. I had to go #2 before I could go home.

It is a terrifying experience trying to poop after having major spinal surgery. I felt absolutely certain I was going to die on the toilet. But I couldn’t leave unless I went, and my doctor was super intense about this, too. It was particularly difficult for me. I get so stressed out when I feel pressured.

6. Then they pulled out the f*cking arterial line from my neck.

I don’t recall my doctor ever mentioning, “Oh, by the way, we are going to insert this giant tube in your artery and then remove it once you are fully awake.” Lucky, for me, I was totally passed out when they put it in, and in fact, I didn’t even realize it was there until the time came to take it out. I remember the nurse telling me that I shouldn’t feel a thing. Yeah, right. As she tugged and pulled it just kept coming up. It was like a worm that had started attaching itself to my artery was being ripped out. To put it bluntly, I  definitely felt it.

5. I wasn’t as good as new.

Prior to surgery, I had this idea that I would no longer be curvy and that I would come out like a brand new person. I thought the surgery would correct the curve and make me straight, just like everyone else. Unfortunately, surgery didn’t change the fact that I have scoliosis, it simply tried to correct it. Despite the fact that I had four ribs removed and bone graft added to my rib cage, I can still feel my curve. Sure, this made my deformity less visible, but it didn’t change the way my body felt. Even though I couldn’t see the deformity, I still felt it, I still feel it, I am still aware of how it affects my body every single day.

6. Pain never went away; it’s always there.

I remember thinking I would be pain-free after surgery. Just like I was convinced that surgery would fix all my problems. The truth is, surgery doesn’t fix everything. It makes certain things better, but pain is definitely not one of those things. Do not get me wrong, the pain changes, and in some ways it is better, but unfortunately, surgery did not fix all my pain, it only changed it.

7. I had to say goodbye to balance and coordination.

Waking up after scoliosis surgery was incredibly mind-blowing. All of a sudden, I felt like my body was foreign, as if I underwent the procedure and woke up to find the surgeon had given me a new body. It was one of the strangest feelings I have ever experienced.The next day, I felt like Bambi on ice. I was so wobbly and uncoordinated. My body didn’t respond the way I wanted it to, and I just kept feeling like I was going to tumble over. It was so surreal. Unfortunately, though, I never really did regain my balance and coordination. I am still one of the clumsiest people ever.

8. What does it even mean to be flexible?

I was very flexible as a kid. I had no problem doing a split, and backbends were nothing for me. But after surgery, all that changed. Titanium and a few screws killed all of my flexibility, and I don’t remember what it feels like to be flexible.

9. I felt like a broken record.

I have no idea how many times I have told my story. I’m pretty sure it has to be thousands by now. I wish I could say I am use to it, but I am not. I don’t dislike telling my story, but at a certain point it starts to get slightly repetitive.

10. People do not know what scoliosis is.

Scoliosis affects an estimated 7 million people in the U.S., yet there are still people out there who have no idea what it is. I am happy to explain it to anyone who doesn’t know what it is, but I wish there was more awareness about a condition that is extremely common worldwide.

12. There are things I shouldn’t do.

I have titanium rods and screws alongside my spine. This means I am at a risk of puncturing any one of my organs if I have a serious accident, so as much as I want to do high-impact activities, I shouldn’t. I have to be mindful of my body and aware of my own limitations.

13. Injuries take forever to heal.

I am 30 years old; I am not a spring chicken, but I am also not 85. Yet, my body does not heal at the rate I wish it did. I fell down concrete stairs last year, and I am still trying to recover from the impact of that fall. Due to the rods and screws in my spine, any impact or injury can cause internal bone bruising, which takes a long time to heal. Trust me, I don’t recommend injuring yourself after having scoliosis surgery.

And that’s a wrap! Did I miss anything? Let me know by commenting below!

Follow this journey on The Curvy Spine.

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Thinkstock photo by Hin255

Originally published: January 7, 2017
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