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Bent Not Broken

Updated on July 25, 2016
Before & After Spinal Fusion (February 1, 2016)
Before & After Spinal Fusion (February 1, 2016)

I participated in just about everything in school. I was on the dance team, Beta club, National Honors Society, Interact Club, Library club, Diamond Girls, you name it--except for sports. I was absolutely terrible at them ( I could barely stand on my own two feet let alone kick a ball). I was every teacher's pet: the star student (well close enough), student of the month, errand girl, etc. And I was a loyal friend. Not everyone knew about my scoliosis condition, and that was the way I wanted it to stay. I didn't want anyone to know about the ugly deformation that was my back.

One day in 7th grade, I walked through the living room in a tank top and my mother noticed the lump in my spine. Being a nurse of 13 years, she decided to examine me herself. At first she thought it was some form of cancer (imagine hearing that at 12 years old) but she finally ruled that out. We ended up calling my father and instructing him to meet us at the X-Ray room in the hospital he worked at. After having to stand in front of a machine for what felt like three hours, I was diagnosed with scoliosis. I remember cursing myself and blaming that stupid pink tank top. "If you wouldn't have worn that dumb thing you wouldn't be in this mess!" I would tell myself.

My parents decided to put me through chiropractic care. After visiting three clinics, we thought we had hit a dead end. Until someone recommended us to a clinic in Mississippi. The Chiropractor was a nice woman: caring, talkative, funny, so we gave it a go. That was one of the worst decisions I have ever made. I sat in weird contraptions three-five days a week (two hours a day) that moved me in all sorts of directions and only seemed to increase my pain. But I never told anyone. Heck, what did I know? I was a twelve year old girl who knew nothing about the medical field. So i just shut my mouth and let it happen. A year and a half later, however, we discovered that my 57 degree curve had increased to an 80 degree. My chiropractor never informed my mother, father, or I of this progression. When we confronted her for the X-rays, she refused to hand them over.

After her little stunt, I quit chiropractic care and pretty much gave up hope on fixing the huge lump that overtook my whole backside. Honestly, I grew accustomed to it. I didn't even notice it anymore. And that is saying a lot. I mean, I resembled the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

And then the kids in my school began to pick on me. The one that hurt the most was by two girls that I believed were my friends. At a football game one day, they decided that it would be funny to pick on me (they already knew all about my condition). I had leaned down to grab something out of my bag when they began making gagging noises. I, along with a few of my friends, turned around to see what they were acting a fool about. That's when they started yelling "Ewe!" and "Yuck!" I was mortified. And to make matters worse, they started asking me--very loudly may I add-- "What is that? It's so gross!" and pointing at me. Everyone in the stands, including the people who weren't on the dance team, began to look for what the girls were talking about. Since we were outside in 90 degree weather, i did not have a jacket to put over myself. The only thing I could do was sit there and allow everyone to ogle the monstrous beast that was me. I willed myself to not cry because I believed that that would be even more embarrassing. So I had to spend the rest of the game, including the half-time show, self-conscious of my own skin.

Because of those girls, I lost all of my confidence. I began to wear baggy clothes, stay at home, and never speak to anyone. I didn't even want friends--who would? I couldn't trust anyone. I quit dating, going out, i even considered quitting dance (which I loved more than anything in the world). By doing this, I did manage to avoid the teasing and harassing that I was experiencing. It wasn't until 9th grade that someone finally drew the last straw by picking on me.

I came home crying that day. I cried the whole thirty minute bus ride home, the ten minute drive to my house, and for about two more hours in my bed. Finally, I told my parents that I was going to have a spinal fusion surgery to "fix the monster that I was." My mother almost didn't have me go through with it because it was all a plan of self hatred. But the truth was, I was in chronic pain. My ribs felt like they were piercing my lungs, I felt like someone had hit me with a hammer everyday, and I was short of breath. To make matters worse, I was losing height. And that horrified me.

After consulting my surgeon, I learned that I was one of--if not the worst--case he had ever seen. My curves were now 85 and 57 degrees and my ribs were indeed on my lungs.

On February 1, 2014, I underwent the spinal fusion. 2 rods, 19 screws, and a hook were placed inside my back and i was in the hospital for a whole week due to a minor complication. I couldn't hold down any food for about three days (my doctor was about to feed me via tube) and I couldn't even turn on my own. It took three nurses to come in every couple of hours and turn me and I only weighed 100 pounds. The worst part though, was the X-rays. Since I couldn't stand, they had to lay me on a stone-hard board. I had just had my whole back reconstructed and they lay me on a board. I had convinced myself that they were trying to kill me. That was the worst pain I have ever felt in my entire life (and I even had my nerve poked during an ABG). Each time they did it, I would scream out and cry in pain. I still thank God to this day for making that agony end.

I was out of school for six weeks and had to be home schooled during those times. I also couldn't dance for six-eight months (though I did anyway). And yet, all that pain and misery was the best decision I ever made for my life. If it wasn't for the surgery, I would most likely be paralyzed--or headed towards paralyzation. I now have board straight posture, a healthy body, and an inspiring story to tell. What's even more crazy--and at the time I never believed i would say it-- is that I thank God everyday for making me experience the self-deprecation, humiliation, and pain that I did. If it wasn't for scoliosis, I probably wouldn't be the person I am today.

I wrote this story about myself, not to receive sympathy, but to encourage others. The dumbest thing I have ever done is let some adolescent girls get into my head. I know that scoliosis isn't as worrisome and serious as cancer or other diseases, disorders, illnesses, etc. but it needs to be acknowledged. When I was going through my tough times, I was all alone. I didn't know anyone experiencing the same troubles I was. And I couldn't find anything online that helped either. The only thing I discovered on the internet was horror stories and surgery videos. Please do not watch these. You will be scared for life. I am hoping that I can assist others and inspire them to be themselves no matter the trouble. I promise that you are worth every bit of what you think you are. If you have positive thoughts, you will have positive outcomes. I didn't believe this at first, but after thinking positively I saw a dramatic difference. The best advice that I can ever give anyone is to pray. It doesn't matter what religion you are, or if you aren't religious at all. Just try it. I promise that He will deliver (though he loves to make you wait most of the time).

Please let me know if my story helped. Also, give me some ideas for my next post please!

Thank you so much for reading and good luck on all of your future endeavors! »Ashlyn B. Keller«

© 2016 Ashlyn Keller

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