Hi my name is Izzy Marzano. I live in San Diego, CA and I’m 14 years old. Three and a half years ago, at my annual school physical, my doctor noticed I had a curve in my spine when I bent over. She told my Mom that I may have a curve in my back and I should go to see a spine doctor. She referred me to Rady Children’s Hospital where I met with Peter Newton, MD. He is a Pediatric Spine Surgeon. When I arrived the nurse had me take XRays of my back so Dr Newton could see my bones and understand what was happening. When we went into the exam office, he sat my mom and me down and told us the images showed I had two curves in my back. One in the upper spine or thoracic spine and one in the lower spine the thoracolumbar part of the spine. He told me I had adolescent idiopathic scoliosis or AIS and a double curve of my spine. As you can imagine, upon hearing this my mom and I felt a number of emotions. We were surprised, scared, nervous . . . and had a number of questions like: How big were the curves? Were they bad? Did I need surgery? There was a lot running through our minds because this was all new to us. There were a lot of unknowns.
In continuing the conversation with Dr. Newton he described the degree of my curves as 20deg thoracic and 40deg thoracolumbar. He shared the curves weren’t huge, but they were big enough where intervention was required because I still had a lot of growing to do. He said I had two options. The first was bracing my spine. We asked what he meant by bracing? He said I could have a customized plastic harness or girdle made. It would start under my arms pits, go down to my hips, and wrap around my body. It would have 3 straps to pull it tight to help prevent my spine from further curving. He also said I would have to wear it for up to 18 hours for a day for a couple years. The second option was fusion surgery. He could place screws and rods in my back to help straighten my spine and fuse the bones together. The surgery would take a few hours and I would have to spend a couple weeks at home recovering. With either choice he told me I could still stay active and participate in sports.
When I heard the options, I thought avoiding surgery was the better choice, so I chose bracing. But wearing a brace every day wasn’t something I was looking forward to. I had questions like: How do I wear a brace at school? How would my clothes fit? What would kids at school say if they saw it? I had a lot of questions! We talked about a number of things and before I know it, I had my brace. It took some time, but I finally got used to wearing the brace. I wore it during the day and while sleeping with a few hours off in the afternoon. I bought some looser fitting shirts to help hide it under my clothes, but even when kids as school saw it, they were cool with it. I just told them I had scoliosis and I had to wear the brace to help fix my spine. It ended up not being as big a deal as I had thought.
Fast forward three years, a lot of bracing and reminders from my parents about putting my brace on, and I am a happy to share bracing worked! I am now fully grown and my curves are now 20deg thoracic and 22deg thoracolumbar. While my spine isn’t perfectly straight, through bracing I was able to avoid surgery. I am sharing my story because like you, I started this journey being nervous. But working together with Dr Newton and my parents, I was able to avoid surgery. Today, I participate in Setting Scoliosis Straight to help kids like me to understand what being diagnosed with AIS means and how they can use bracing to help treat their curves. I hope you found my story helpful.
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