My name is Elena Valle, and I am sixteen years old. I was diagnosed with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis when I was 12 years old by my primary care pediatrician. X-Rays showed a curve of about 18 degrees, and about every six months I came back to see how the curve progressed. After the doctors saw how fast my curve was progressing and with the knowledge of how much more growing I had left, they determined I should wear a brace. I was treated with a Rigo Chêneau brace that I had to wear for 21 hours a day. I wore that brace for 3 years, my entire middle school experience. It was hard because I couldn’t wear the clothes that I wanted to wear. Other kids would point out my brace when it showed under my clothes. But my friends were always supportive and never made me feel like it was something I should be ashamed of wearing. After those three years, I was no longer required to wear the brace, but only because surgery was inevitable.
On June 29, 2018 I had spinal fusion surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD. All of the nurses in the pre-op room were very calm and comforting, and made sure my family and I had nothing to worry about. My surgeon, Dr. Sponseller, always put me at ease, and I felt very confident in his abilities. My full recovery time was about 4-5 months, but I was feeling better and going out of the house by the 4th or 5th week post operation. My advice to anyone facing scoliosis bracing or surgery is to worry less and trust more. Even though this was the scariest thing I ever had to face in my life, it made me realize my own strength and resilience. Take comfort and knowledge in other people’s experiences that are shared to help you through your own personal journey.
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