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Patient Stories

Katja B

There is Light at the End of the Tunnel

I was diagnosed with scoliosis at 14 years old. My mother was helping me try on my 8th grade prom dress and noticed it looked crooked on me. She kept trying to adjust it with no luck. “Turn around and touch your toes” she exclaimed, sounding somewhat worried. When I bent over, she ran her fingers down my spine and I heard her gasp. She scheduled an appointment with my pediatrician that following week and he stated 3 words that would change my life forever, “You have scoliosis”.

The rest of my teen years consisted of annual checkups with my orthopedic surgeon to monitor my curve. I was told my condition was considered mild and that it was unlikely I would ever need surgery. I would just have to live with it. “No one will even notice” my doctor stated. “Everyone would notice,” I thought to myself. To me, it was so obvious. My hips were uneven, one shoulder was more prominent than the other, and my torso looked crooked. I remember looking at myself in the mirror and feeling so defeated. I did not understand why I had scoliosis and had no clue how I could feel confident in my own skin.

For the next couple of years, my appointments sounded the same. My curve was still “mild” and would most likely not need surgery. It was not until my visit at age 20 that everything changed. As my doctor checked my spine he looked over to my mom and asked her if she noticed that my curve looked worse. My mom and I looked at each other with worry plastered all over our faces. My doctor left the room to check the X-ray. When he came back, he informed me that his assumptions were correct. My curve increased to 50 degrees and I had to be scheduled for surgery.

My surgery was scheduled on May 30, 2018, just a few weeks after I was told I needed a spinal fusion. The surgery went well, but I suffered an allergic reaction to the local anesthesia that was used. The nurses rushed in to my room to stop the reaction, and thankfully, they did. I remember when my therapist came into my room the day after my surgery to help me walk. My back felt like a ton of bricks. The pain was unbearable without my medication. Recovery at home did not get much easier. As I began to ease off my pain medication, I started to have a deep pain in my left shoulder and arm. I could not even lift a bottle of water to drink. My orthopedic surgeon never had a case like this. He referred me to an orthopedic sports medicine doctor. I was told I had a mild frozen shoulder. I needed physical therapy before the situation got worse.

I continued therapy throughout the end of the summer and fall semester of my junior year in college. I went from not being able to lift my arm to lifting weights. It was like night and day. Looking back at my recovery, I realize that it was not easy. My mother had to help me with everything. It was extremely difficult getting in and out of bed. I felt so hesitant to walk or move quickly, especially with the pain. Every day was a challenge. At the time I thought I would never get better. It was hard to look at the light at the end of the tunnel. Now, I am grateful for everything that I went through. I am grateful for my surgery and that I can live life normally as I did before. My surgery gave me the confidence I never thought I would have. I wear my scar proudly and appreciate my scoliosis journey!

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