I woke up one day and my spine was shaped like an 'S'
Updated: Aug 29
"Count down from 10." The doctors calmly instructed me as I was staring up into big, bright lights in the operating room. I only made it to nine. I was 13-years-old and I was about to have a spinal fusion, and as you can imagine... I was terrified. This was no minor surgery and I had no idea what it would be like after I woke up 4 hours later.
Let's rewind for a moment, shall we? One day, I simply bent over to pick up a piece of paper in front of my mom and she gasped. What she saw was a vast difference in the appearance of the left and right side of my back, which is what we would later find out was scoliosis-- specifically, progressive adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. It's almost as if it happened overnight, or maybe it just went undetected for so long that it just got worse... either way, I went from one day living a normal 7th-grade life to what felt like a billion different visits to doctors to figure out what to do with my severely curved spine.
Scoliosis: Lateral deviation of the normal vertical line of the spine which, when measured by x-ray, is greater than ten degrees; scoliosis consists of a lateral curvature of the spine with rotation of the vertebrae within the curve.
After it was decided that there were no other options for me but surgery, my adolescent mind spiraled into a frenzy of anxious thoughts. Surgery?! I could barely handle getting shots at my yearly physicals. So, what did I do? Prayed very hard that I would wake up one day and there would be no need for surgery because my spine would be perfectly straight. You might be laughing, but I'm serious and almost every day I checked in the mirror to see if my prayers had been answered.
My curve was approximately 60 degrees and if it progressed it would begin shifting organs, which is why surgery was my only option.
No matter how many deep breaths I took that day of surgery, I couldn't shake the fear of being cut wide open. Four hours, two titanium rods, and 19 screws later I woke up in what felt like a completely different body. My brilliant surgeon got my curve 90% corrected, no more S-shaped spine for me!
Scoliosis never felt like it actually limited what I could do until after my surgery. The healing process was long and I was solely dependent on help from my parents, from comfortably getting to sleep at night to taking a bath.
Carefully and cautiously: that's how I began to approach everything. I was fearful that one wrong action would literally break me because I felt so fragile and knew that I had just gone through a massive procedure.
I wasn't able to play soccer, praise dance at church, or just be an all-around careless 13-year-old anymore. These were the things that were taken away, but that I eventually was able to get back. Though I was impatient about my healing process and wanted my sense of independence back, I soon learned that this was something that I could not rush nor did I NEED to.
There are certain things that I'm simply not capable of doing or at least should not try, but that hasn't limited the ways in which I seek out adventure or trying new things as I've grown older. My scar and my titanium rods are a reminder of a scary and pain-filled time in my life, but they are also a reminder of my strength and my purpose. I'm 24-years-old now and the older I get, the more grateful I am for my spinal fusion and having scoliosis.
My story is just that... mine. However, with scoliosis being so common, especially among young women, there are many other stories out there that resemble the hardships that I faced. And even with how common scoliosis is, there are still people that have no idea what it is or how hard it can be. I share my story in hopes to meet others that have shared the same experience, to spread awareness, to encourage someone that may soon be having a spinal fusion and because it is a special part of my journey and plays a major role in the ways that I've grown both mentally and emotionally as I've gotten older.
To everyone out there that has scoliosis, has had a spinal fusion or is going to have one: may your good days outweigh your bad days. And may continue to share your story just as I continue to share mine because you never know who it may help.
Thanks for reading, and don't forget... be great! xox