Patient Stories

Sequoia Kriss

Hello, my name is Sequoia Kriss. I am 17 years old and I had Juvenile Idiopathic Scoliosis. 

 It was the summer going into my 6th grade year in elementary school. My sister, Sierra, and I were being silly and dancing to made up music in our heads. As she spun me around for a dip, the back of my shirt lifted. Sierra was confused because she saw that my back had a curve. She had me stand up, lift my shirt and bend over. She touched my back and gasped as she could see and feel my spine curve. I told her to stop worrying and continue to dance with me, but she called my parents upstairs and they examined me. The concern in their voice took me from a state of laughter to tears. I was scared that my life would change from that moment on, and it did. 

            Many doctors’ appointments and referrals later, I was finally sent to Dr. Scott David Shoemaker. His warm welcome calmed me as I walked into the doctor’s office and stood in line to get my x-rays taken. The x-rays soon showed that I have an “S” curve with 25 degrees on the top curve and 27 degrees on the bottom curve. He sent me to a specialist to get a back brace to hopefully halt the continuation of my curvature.

Another three appointments, and I was given my pink back brace that was to be worn when I went to bed every night. The first night I was excited because this would fix and change my back instantly, or so I thought. The first night was horrible and the nights afterwards were horrible too. My small 100-pound body in a hard-shelled back brace was half my size and refrained me from sleeping on my side or stomach. Every night, strapping into my brace, Velcro strips ripping off and attaching made tears fall from my face. My dad would have to help me up off the floor and would make a joke that would help me laugh and fall asleep.

Months later, we went back to Dr. Shoemaker and took more x-rays taken. I crossed my fingers for no more movement of my spine. It wasn’t the case, my back increased to pass 30 degrees on each curve. I felt devastated, the pain and humility that I went through every night was not doing anything to help me. I felt defeated. I was pushing through the pain because I assumed it was working and helping me, but it wasn’t. Dr. Shoemaker made my parents and me aware that if my back continued at the rate it was going, I would have to have surgery. He told me begin to work on my core and strength, in case I would have to get surgery. He explained that I would need to be strong and flexible for surgery.

I continued to wear my brace every night, but the days got worse as my back continued to curve. I would get painful headaches and back pain every day at school. My mom would bring me home and I would sit on the floor crying with an ice pack on my back while my friends were having fun on the playground. I would layer my clothes before I went to school to attempt to conceal the hump, I had on the bottom left of my back. I went to a personal trainer at the YMCA twice a week to increase my strength and flexibility. 

The final appointment: The x-rays showed that my back was increasing to over 60-degree curvature. Dr, Shoemaker explained that I would have to get surgery in order to stop the development of my back. If I did not, my back would continue to curve until I would be hunched over and there was a chance that my lungs would collapse. He explained that I would have surgery in the following months to come. 

It was March 31, 2015. We arrived at the hospital at 4 in the morning. I changed into a gown, socks, and a hair net. They pulled me into the operating room and the 7 doctors were all surrounding me and reassuring me that I would be okay. 8 hours later, I woke up with two titanium rods and 22 pins later and remained in the hospital for 6 days after that. I remember very little from the hospital experience. At home I lay in bed all day and eventually was able to walk down the stairs into the living room, which would be the farthest I traveled for the next 3 months. 

Three years later: After this life changing experience I had to learn how to maneuver with metal in my back. It was a painful first year because I was unable to run, and the pain moved from deep pain to uncomfortable pain occasionally. Regardless, once I entered high school, I joined the cross-country team. I ended the season placing 6th in the Junior Varsity league race and the following year I placed 6th place in the Varsity league race and 2nd in the two-mile league race during track and field. The start of running effected my back, it would hurt when I would begin my run. However, now going onto my 4th year of running, I have noticed that running has helped my back. It has kept be flexible and strong. My back, if anything, helps me run because it keeps me up straight and moving forward strong. My past year of running, my Junior year, I placed 5th in the league race and placed in the top 20 at the C.I.F San Diego sectional race in November. Alongside the happiness running gives me, I try my hardest to help others who have scoliosis. I sent advice to a young boy who was going to be having surgery. I also texted, and still text, a young girl who went through surgery and is now building up her strength to begin horse riding again. I love helping these young kids because I know how confusing, painful, and alone you can feel when you get told that you are not “normal.” 

I would love to connect with anyone who wants a friend to talk to and ask questions about scoliosis too or to have someone to support them. Please direct message me on Instagram (@sequoiarosie) to talk:) Scoliosis may sound scary, but all it has done for me is make me a stronger person.


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