Today is November 16th. And three years ago today was a day that has forever changed my life. I am blessed. So many of you know this story but I wanted to write today to share with other people who may be considering scoliosis surgery or have already scheduled it. You need to know my story. I had talked to so many of you on the phone over the past 3 years, we've actually met over at Southwest Scoliosis Institute (SSI) and we are friends who try to keep up with one another on Facebook. A few of you are like family now. It's a day that continues to give in the friendships that are cemented and will never end. I thank you for your trust and encouragement over the past 3 years.
When I was 13 I was diagnosed with a mild to moderate case of scoliosis. It was still pretty new but Dr. Paul Harrington had invented the Harrington rod by 1968 and we found a wonderful scoliosis doctor in downtown Dallas. My case was not severe enough to warrant surgery so we used a Milwaukee brace for my treatment. I'm sure many of you know what those look like. And a bunch of my friends went through 2 years of it in what we used to call junior high. Some of you encouraged me to not become a turtle who hid in her shell and wouldn't come outside the summer I got it. We lived in the country then and everything we did was outdoor physical during that hot time of the year. My passions were reading Nancy Drew and horses. Daddy had sold my horse before I went into my brace because horseback riding wasn't really allowed back then during or after treatment. No water or snow skiing either. No diving into water due to the pressure it would put on my back. So the entire 8th grade year I wore this brace that required special help for desks, special clothes my Mom made. Mom and Daddy were so good helping me get through it. I had every color of shoes and purses to match to go with my special clothing. And I was stared at. And horrified loads of people. I got used to it and so did my friends. And when we had 8th grade graduation I got to take that brace off and graduate in the most beautiful pink dress my Mom had bought for me. I felt like a butterfly. And my waist was only 21 inches!!! Boy how I wish we had kept that brace, LOL. We did, down in the barn once I was given the okay. And there it stayed until Mom and Dad sold the property in 1985. So in 9th grade I still had to sleep in it at night and so many of you who MIGHT read this will remember helping me get it on just right. And I had to walk 2 miles initially and swim as much as I could. Which was hard when the swimming pool was a natural pond that the cottonmouth's loved to share. We had to drive to Farmer's Branch to swim. Do y'all remember that pool? So by my sophomore year I was out of my back brace and into teeth braces which I wore through my senior year. Once I got those off I hurt my knee playing football with the family and ended up in a knee brace. Dr. Dale Jackson just shook his head and asked if I were ever going to get out of braces. I did. Thankfully I did.
Fast forward, well, let's just say many years. In 2005 I was painting the master bedroom. Moving furniture, the usual and I felt something in my back move. BIG time and heard it crack. But there was no pain whatsoever when that happened so I didn't think much about it. Over those many years I lived with various degrees of pain that increased once I got older. During that time I had become a volunteer firefighter/EMT and I did have to pay attention to my back. At times the pain shooting down my left leg was intolerable. But I was able to "pack out" and hit structure fires, training, EMS runs, etc. I left the service in 1994 due to political reasons. So my back had pretty much hung in there until the day of the loud pop. I kept painting but when I sat down in the bathtub that night my torso no longer lined up with the waist. Something massively had changed and I did not want to know what it was. In 2006 I went to see a neurologist at the suggestion of my PCP. The x-ray disturbed him enough to make me see about it. I don't know what the degree of curve it was at that time but when I went in for surgery at SSI I had an 80 degree curve. Other doctors warned me against back surgery at all costs and frankly scared my husband and I to death. I worried about it constantly but I was in constant pain and trying to function on a muscle relaxer and ibuprofen. In 2010 we decided to go see what all the fuss was about over at the SSI. Nothing to lose but at this point I knew I needed surgery no matter what. I could no longer live the way I was. And Dr. O'Brien, without a pause, told me they would fix me. Period. Blown away at a doctor's candor my husband and I felt very good about scheduling surgery. And so, on November 16, 2010 Dr. O'Brien "fixed" me and I have not regretted it for one minute. My back rarely hurts. I can pick up heavy items without a twinge and I'm straight, taller and people can no longer tell by my clothes that I'm crooked. There have been complications following but not attributed to the surgery. There are several "dead" areas on my left leg from the knee down and another surgeon said it has nothing to do with my back but starts at the knee. He said many times he sees cases like this because of the pressure stockings they make us wear after surgery to prevent embolisms. I do not think they are used any longer by Baylor scoliosis patients. I can live with numbness. My lower back has a bit but very rarely did I experience pain after surgery. That could be the reason, I don't know, but I was off pain meds in less than a month. I am liberated from a demanding back that would have only gotten worse and twisted me until I was crippled. I thank God for His goodness back in 1968 and again in 2010.
If surgery is recommended DO IT! There are no guarantees in life and of course surgery is one of them. Don't wait until you are 55 like I was. Do it as young as is recommended. Sure I have problems bending now but does it bother me? No and I would have surgery every single day to have the life I now have, numb leg and foot and all. I function normally and when I see other people with serious physical problems and defects I praise the Lord all over again. I am lucky. I am blessed. Don't wait. If your insurance will pay for it now or hopefully after the first of the year have it done if that is what is recommended by SSI. Don't let another practice scare you to death as I did for 4 years. I can't express the gratitude I feel.
Please feel free to leave a comment or question here on my blog and I'm on Facebook as well. Let's work together to Cure the Curve and get the message out that it can be cured one spine at a time.
November 16, 2013