Patient Stories

Sarah T

I was diagnosed with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis in 2016, at the age of 15. On a family vacation, posing for pictures, my family had noticed something wrong with my posture. I appeared to be standing diagonally as opposed to straight. However, from my perspective, I was unaware of this difference. As I was getting ready to go to sleep that same day, I noticed the right side of my rib cage protruding more so than the left. Upon returning from our vacation, my mom took me to the doctor in order to express our concerns. The x-rays showed two curvatures in my spine; the first ranged from the cervical to mid-thoracic region and the second from mid-thoracic to lumbar. These curvatures measured about 36 and 46 degrees, respectively. I was immediately told that I was a candidate for surgery and needed to consult with a specialist as soon as possible.

Of course, this is a very frightening prospect, not only for the patient themselves, but also for the family. We did not want to rush into such an invasive treatment without being absolutely sure that it was the right option. Since I had stopped growing at this age, a brace was not an option. As a result, we decided to try a chiropractor. While there, I met another girl who was also living with scoliosis. She had one curvature in her spine and had been going to the chiropractor for almost five years. Her condition was not as severe as mine; after informing me that she had only seen a reduction in her curvature by about five degrees, I knew this was not the right option for me. This experience allowed my family and I to become more comfortable with the surgery and consult with a surgeon. During this waiting period I saw my condition worsen. The asymmetry became increasingly noticeable as my body was physically catching up with the anatomical changes that had occurred.

On June 15, 2016 I had the spinal fusion surgery. I was in the operation room for almost six hours but thankfully, my surgery went well. To this day I distinctly remember waking up to the words “94 degrees Fahrenheit”. This was my body temperature immediately after the surgery. I was physically shivering as layers upon layers of blankets were placed around me. At this moment I became aware of the strange sensation I had in my back. I had felt as though I were laying on a wooden plank, which I quickly realized was my spine. The following days consisted of many nurses helping me out of bed in order to get me walking. The pain was the worst I had ever experienced in my life. However, with the help of my family, doctors, and nurses, I was able walk, sit, and go up and down stairs before being discharged from the hospital. I was still very limited in my physical movements; I couldn’t bend over for three months or twist for six months. During that summer and the rest of the year, I recovered at home and went to physical therapy in order to gradually get myself used to the life I used to have. I now am able to participate in all of the physical activities I performed prior to the surgery. These including walking, running, jumping, and swimming.

As I reflect back on my experience, I am reminded of how much I had struggled. At the end of the day, what got me through was thinking ahead towards my long-term goal. While going through all of this hard-ship it may be hard to look ahead, but the most important thing is to realize that this struggle is short-term. I am now very grateful for this experience as it not only allowed me to gain more self-confidence but also taught me perseverance. I am very proud of my journey with scoliosis as it positively contributed to the person I am today.


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