Patient Stories

Patient Story: Michelle Jiang

My life has always seemed to be near perfect. I’ve never suffered the loss of a loved one, broken a bone, been perceived to struggle with school, or really face any difficulty that couldn’t be resolved within a matter of days. And I am forever grateful for this.

But for many, the image of perfection is merely a facade, one that masks the true hardships. And I have chosen to share one of my biggest hardships.

In February of 2018, during my 6th-grade year, I visited my pediatrician at Brandywine Pediatrics for an annual checkup. Noticing my right shoulder slightly slanted downwards, she sent me to Nemours AI Dupont Hospital to take an X-Ray. That day, I was diagnosed with Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS). By then, I already had moderate scoliosis (around 35˚), and I had just learned that scoliosis could only be prevented from progressing, not cured.

I was put into a Wilmington brace a few weeks later and proceeded to wear it for about a year and a half. During the period of bracing, I constantly dealt with back pain and discomfort as I was wearing my brace for 12-18 hours a day. However, the most difficult part wasn’t the bracing itself, but rather consistently putting it on every day. It was mentally challenging to first convince myself to wear the brace, then lie down, strap it tightly around me until it reached a marked line, and sit back up.

I struggled with my body image, hating how my right shoulder constantly slumped over. I was constantly making sure that I was standing on the left side when taking pictures, embarrassed to expose the imperfection on the right. Even now, I still haven’t crossed the finish line of fully embracing my curve. However, hearing numerous stories from other powerful young men and women fighting the same battle, some even more arduous than mine, my confidence has gradually developed.

Finally, in November of 2019, I had my last brace appointment with Dr. Shah. It was as if months of burden piled up had finally been lifted, quite literally, off my shoulders.

Today, I am happy to be brace-free, with both parts of my curve stabilized around 35˚. Scoliosis is much more prevalent than many of us think. That is, for every 100 people at your school, there may be 4-5 people diagnosed with AIS. A few months ago, my younger sister was diagnosed with scoliosis as well, but because my family was already fully aware of this disorder, she was treated at about 20˚.

My hope in sharing this story is not only to encourage other patients to step up and support the scoliosis community but to also bring awareness to this disorder and promote early detection. Unlike many others, I am fortunate to not have undergone surgery. I’ll be forever thankful for all the medical professionals, friends, and family that supported me through this journey.


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