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Scoliosis, My Personal Journey with Dealing with a Curved Spine

Updated on November 10, 2014

My personal journey with scoliosis

I want to share my story, a journey really, with scoliosis and hope that it may help someone else that is going through it or knows someone that is. Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine and it can be mild or severe.

My scoliosis was found when I was just 8 years old. It was never noticeable from the outside, you would never have known anything was really wrong. My hips were a very tiny bit off, one very slightly higher than the other. This is a sign of a lower curve. I went to get it all checked out and the doctor came back and shared the news.

I was so young, I don't think I fully understood what was happening, but I didn't really care. I was just a little girl that loved to play and run and have a good time. Before long, I was fitted for a Milwaukee brace. This is an upper body brace that covers a majority of your torso. It can be worn under clothes luckily. I had a small lift put in my shoe, to try to cause my hips to be a little more even.

Needless to say, I didn't like the brace, but had to wear it to school and when I was sleeping and as much as I could. I do recall taking it off at school, and I was never teased or made fun of, and in fact it turned out to be a rather "cool" thing. I had friends that helped me to take it off, then they would ask if they could PLEASE try it on! They thought it was very cool, and so I felt blessed in that regard as I look back.

This is not me, but you can see the xray showing curvature of the spine.
This is not me, but you can see the xray showing curvature of the spine.

Did the brace and exercises help to prevent surgery?

Well, now that I am looking back, I need to say that I probably could have worn my brace more. Some doctors say that a brace isn't corrective, in terms of correcting an already curved spine. The goal of a brace is to keep a curve from getting worse as a child continues to grow. The brace makes it difficult for a spine to grow any way but straight. I have heard however, of braces helping people with their curves if they wear it as long as they ought to every day. Especially with lower curves, the brace can be helpful.

So I tried doing my exercises that had been prescribed, as well as wearing my brace, but I admit I didn't fully do it as much as I should have. By the time I was ten years old, my doctor said that I needed to have surgery. They would put a Herrington rod , which is just about the size of a pencil, alongside my spine. Then take a small piece of bone from my hip bone, and put it right next to the bar and my spine. These 3 things would fuse together and become one, and my spine would stay straightened. The doctor wanted to fix only the worst of my two curves, because otherwise my growth would be severely stunted. So this was the plan.


My Surgery - Use of a Herrington Rod

The time came for my surgery, and I felt just fine, even though I was only 10 years old. The hardest part for me was just the shot before the surgery on the morning of. The huge needle didn't hurt me, but the thicker medicine really really hurt me. I never minded shots and thought myself very brave in that regard. This made me cry, and it was very hard for my mother and my sister had to leave the room. I imagine now that anesthesiologists have more resources to draw from. Its been 30 years ago now! If you think about it, it had to be strong enough to cause me to be "out" for quite a while and for such a serious surgery.

The time came, and I had to be wheeled down the hall, and I was getting groggy. I felt fine though, and was kind of excited to get my back straightened out, because I didn't like the brace.

I woke up later...very groggy, and was just sleepy a lot. I had to be put into a stryker frame, a bed that has your body sandwiched in between the two outer parts. This would be turned over every few hours, and it helps to prevent bed sores, while keeping a back patient's spine completely immobilized. This was critical for the spine to be still, and to allow the fusion to take place.

I became afraid of the pain shots, and whenever they asked me if I had pain, I never did. They didn't always believe me though, and often had to give me some routine pain shots in the hip. I grew stronger every day, and I had an excellent surgeon for which I am still VERY grateful to. He was simply wonderful.

Recovery and my life since surgery

Soon, I was to learn how to walk and get balance again. Its one of the down sides to being off your feet for so long. I never needed any transfusions for which I am so grateful. That went well, and need to say that to anyone wondering if visiting a patient in the hospital is a good idea or not, please assume it's a good idea unless you hear otherwise. My days were truly brightened by visitors. I had friends come, friends of my parents come, and I can't tell you how many stuffed animals I got! This became something that made me smile, and my sister created a chart for which we kept track of visitors, so I could remember to thank them later. It meant a lot to me.

One day, it was the day to get out my stitches and I remember being very nervous about it. It was no big deal though. I got through it ok, and had on a new brace, that fit like a glove and that was completely straight! No more curved spine, and this brace felt like wearing no brace at all, for now I was straightened. I had many people praying for me, and I prayed a lot myself. I felt peace because of this.

For the next nine months, I was to always wear this brace to ensure complete and proper healing. To anyone dealing with this, its wonderful to get things taken care of. I know they deal with things a bit differently now, and that its only better than before.

I was to have a second surgery on my spine, when I was 14, because the other curve never got better. The date was set, and I was sad about this, but we decided to pray for my back, pray boldly and ask God to make it straight. We went for a pre - op appointment, and the x-ray showed my back suddenly didn't need another surgery. I never did need it, and I am so thankful! I just wanted to share how I have lived a very happy life, and have a very strong spine and have done all kinds of things. I am grateful to the medical research that has been done, and my doctor, and to God and my family for helping me through so much. I would encourage anyone to stay on their course of treatment that may be dealing with this, and know that scoliosis is a very temporary condition for children. They just need to get through those growing years. The future is bright.

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© 2010 Paula

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    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR

      Paula 

      7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      ReuVera, I would agree with you there, thanks for your input and the visit and comments to this hub. :)

    • ReuVera profile image

      ReuVera 

      7 years ago from USA

      I see. Probably every case is different and it is important that doctors (doctors of medicine, or doctors of chiropractic) would have a good vision of what kind of care can help the best.

    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR

      Paula 

      7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Thank you for sharing your views here, ReuVera. My mother worked for a very successful chiropractor in Southern California at the time. Even he recommended that I see an orthopedic surgeon for my spine. It wasn't a very painful experience really, and rather miraculous to be honest.

      The more I have learned, the more I realize how dangerous things would have become if I hadn't had the help I needed from a skilled surgeon. I know there are many varying views on it however. It very tempting for people to go the "less painful route", no braces, no surgery. I also have heard how quickly the curves can spiral out of control with kids especially. Gravity alone and grow spurts can make a bad curve worse very quickly. My honest opinion after having been through all I have been, is that its wisest and thinking of a child the most, to give them orthopedic care. Doctors like that also don't want surgery, its a last resort, but that gets things fixed quickly. I feel fortunate to have had some great chiropractors in our life now and then as well, that agree with me. No doubt many will agree with you too, ReuVera. I can only share my experience, and that it was 3 decades ago, and that I still am doing so well is a true testament to the process I went through. To those that can possibly be truly helped by a chiropractor, more power to them. I just don't personally know of any people like that. Doesn't mean they don't exist though. Thanks for taking the time to comment and stop by.

    • ReuVera profile image

      ReuVera 

      7 years ago from USA

      This is a painful experience, ouch....

      You may argue with me, but simple chiropractic care could have improved your problem. I know a woman (who is 40 now) who was diagnosed with scoliosis in approximately your age. Instead of putting her into a brace (actually they did at the beginning, but she was so miserable, that her parents looked for other ways), she was taken to a good chiropractor. In some time her spinal subluxation was taken care of and she didn't need any braces, or any surgeries.

    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR

      Paula 

      8 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      MPG, thank you for stopping by my hub. I appreciate your comments, and I hope your back pain gets better and better. How great to use walking and yoga to help that. That idea may help others too.

    • MPG Narratives profile image

      Marie Giunta 

      8 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      I don't have scoliosis but I do have 2 ruptured discs in my lower back. I keep the pain down by walking and doing yoga. Any back pain is bad no matter what it is.

      A friend of mine in school had to wear a brace and I remember it working for him. He didn't have to have surgery so I guess your case was bad enough to warrant something drastic.

      Thanks for sharing your story, its nice to hear a good story about back surgery. Thanks, Marie.

    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR

      Paula 

      8 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Nifty, thanks for the comment, and for sharing what you did. I feel grateful that I don't have my back going out, because I know it could be painful and I hear about that with people.

    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR

      Paula 

      8 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Pamela, thank you for your kind words, it means a lot.

    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR

      Paula 

      8 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Pcunix, thank you for your comment. If you wife is suffering from pain on a regular basis, it isn't too late to look into getting some help for the scoliosis part. (From what I understand) I know less about the degenerative joint disease. You would be amazed at the technology they have now, which is better I think than 30 years ago for me. I wish your wife the best.

    • oceansnsunsets profile imageAUTHOR

      Paula 

      8 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Pamela, I guess you are right, that I am so fortunate to have had things turn out well. I am sorry to hear about your friend, but glad they could remove it and hopefully some of her pain as well. Thanks for your comment.

    • nifty@50 profile image

      nifty@50 

      8 years ago

      I've got a mild case, my back goes out every now and then. I've learned to live with it. I could imagine how difficult life could be with a serious case!

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Kinnaird W 

      8 years ago from Maui and Arizona

      You have been through so much! You sound very positive. It's wonderful. Thank you for sharing this.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Kinnaird W 

      8 years ago from Maui and Arizona

      You have been through so much! You sound very positive. It's wonderful. Thank you for sharing this.

    • Pcunix profile image

      Tony Lawrence 

      8 years ago from SE MA

      My wife suffers with this as well as degenerative joint disease. She never had surgery or braces. I wonder if it would have helped.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      It would seem that this wasn't the easiest way to grow up but you had wonderful support which is so important. It's great that you have done so well.

      I have a friend that had the rod put in and had a lot of pain. Several months later another doctor looked at the xrays and found the rod was placed too high and they had to remove it. She still has problems but I don't know all the details. I guess you are very fortunate. or blessed would be a better word.

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