I was 12 years old when my first signs of scoliosis began to show. I was swimming when a friend’s mom noticed. It was barely noticeable at that time. When I went to the doctor about six months later, I was told that I had a 90-degree curve. They wanted to do surgery. I was 13 years old and I freaked out. The doctors, at the time, did not think it would get much worse. So, we decided not to do the surgery. Over the next few years, my curve continued to get worse. By the time I started high school my breathing started to get impaired. When I was 18, I finally went back to a doctor and my curve had progressed to over 120 degrees. The orthopedic surgeon I saw would not touch me; he referred me to a scoliosis specialist who I saw about six months later. When he told me what needed to happen I again freaked out. Only this time instead of one surgery to put rods in, I was looking at eight weeks of halo traction in the hospital, two surgeries, removal of vertebrae and rib pieces, rods and a longer recovery. However, after seeing the x-rays I knew something had to be done and after seeing some others patients’ before and after pictures I knew he was the one I wanted to have do it.
When I went into the hospital to have my halo put on I was nervous. Getting the halo on was not too bad. However, one hour after I woke up I could not keep anything down! I was at Shriners and other children with halos came in and told me it would go away soon. I didn’t believe them but they were right, and I felt better the next day. I had a headache for about a week and a neck ache as the weight of the traction increased. After a while, it was more comfortable to be in traction than without it. During my time in halo traction, I went to physical therapy twice a day and walked on the treadmill, while still hooked up to traction. I could be in my wheelchair or walker in traction. In bed, I was hooked to traction as well, but the weight was less. The only time I was really out of traction was in the shower, where cleaning your pin sites is very important. Shriners was a pretty fun place. They have a good playroom and lots of activities. They have special meals once a week for teens and then for kids who are there over two weeks.
When the time came for my first surgery I was ready. I was told it went well and there was already a noticeable difference in my back. There were about two weeks in between my surgeries and I don’t remember most of that time. I was told I was in pain and it was rough but I don’t remember it. After my second surgery, I don’t remember much from the first week or so but the first time I remember seeing my x-rays I was amazed! The difference was incredible!!
I used to wear big sweatshirts, even in the summer, to try to hide my back but now I can wear tight shirts and no one can tell. The recovery was not easy but it was absolutely worth it! I am so glad I waited and had such a successful surgery. It is now about six months after my surgery and I am feeling mostly like myself. I do get tired easier than I used to but I know that’s because things inside are still healing. There are still some things I can’t do and probably should not ever do, like bungee jumping or skydiving. Everyone who helped take care of me was amazing! It wasn’t always easy but overall it was worth it. I feel and look like a whole new person!