In 2010, I was thirteen years old and in the eighth grade. My life was going smoothly until I played a field hockey game one day after school. During the game, I twisted my knee, and as a result, I had to see an orthopedist. Surprisingly, the doctor was unable to find anything wrong with my knee, but he did find a problem with my back. I was referred to a specialist, and I had x-rays of my back taken at the Spine Center at Nemours A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children. During my appointment, Dr. Shah informed me that I had idiopathic scoliosis, which is an abnormal curvature of the spine that occurs with no known cause. Dr. Shah explained that I had two curves, and I could clearly see from the x-ray that my spine resembled a backwards “S.” My curves were fifty-seven and fifty-five degrees, and this meant that a spinal fusion surgery would be the best option for my future health. After finding out that I needed to have spine surgery, my everyday life suddenly came to a screeching halt.
Once my parents and I made the decision to move forward with the procedure, the next few months were filled with the impending surgery and recovery as my only focus. It seemed to be all I could think about. My uncertainty and fear consumed me, and I began to imagine all of the worst possible outcomes. Fortunately, my parents were there for me every step of the way. They reassured me again and again that I was in a very capable surgeon’s hands and that they would be there for me through every part of my hospital stay and recovery. On the morning of my surgery, I was incredibly anxious, but once I talked to Dr. Shah and the nurses, I felt I could handle what was coming.
Both my hospital stay and my recovery were really tough. The nurses at Nemours were awesome, and they did their best to keep me comfortable, but the physical therapy was especially difficult. Still, I pushed myself every day while I was in the hospital. During my recovery time at home, I became slightly frustrated. I couldn’t do most things for myself, but my parents and my grandmothers helped me with everything that I needed. I was out of school for quite a while, but my friends were really supportive. They took time out of their school days to write me cards and letters, and they brought me small gifts and snacks to get me through my long days at home. Without the love and support of my family, my friends, and my teachers, I don’t think I would have made it through my recovery. However, I had tons of support, and I made it through.
My spinal fusion helped me grow into a bigger person, mentally and physically—I gained over two inches! Despite that fact that it was a long, emotional, and painful journey, I am glad I endured all of it. Without my surgery, I wouldn’t be the healthy individual I am today, and I wouldn’t be the healthy individual I’m going to become as I grow older. I truly value and appreciate Dr. Shah’s guidance and expertise. Being a participant in a scoliosis research study helps me feel connected to the Spine Center at A.I. DuPont, and it has motivated me to do more to help others who have scoliosis. As part of my senior project, I organized a fundraiser in my town to benefit the Setting Scoliosis Straight Foundation, and it was a great success. The fundraiser was my way of giving back to those who helped me through my scoliosis journey and helping future scoliosis patients.