Accepting My Crooked Self

When I was twelve my family noticed a bend. The irregular curve that only showed through on family vacations. The small little "bump" that seemed irregular compared to the rest of my spine. Short gasps from overdramatic family members, then hushed "we'll call the doctor when we get back". Almost like I shouldn't have taken account to the fact it was noticeable enough that it shouldn't have been swept under the rug.

A few months went by before we actually called the doctor and I was diagnosed with mild scoliosis. I never thought much about it. Most of the people in my family had it too. What could possibly be different with me? EVERYTHING, that's what!

About three years went by after I had worn a back brace for two. I was in excruciating pain everyday at school, being forced to wear a restricting brace to "numb" the pain. Classmates would offer to "crack, pop, rub" my back like it would help, newsflash, it only made it worse. I went back to my doctor who told me I would have to have surgery. After he told me that my growth plates were finished growing and this shouldn't have happened.

About six-eight months later I was sitting in a hospital waiting to go back for surgery. That's when it finally hit me that it was all real. I guess I was hoping for a miracle to heal me, to make it all a dream, or maybe just for it to swept under the rug like before. That never happened. So here I am drugged up with my then boyfriend holding my hand, waiting to go back...

When I woke up it hadn't yet occurred to me that my spine was being supported by two titanium rods. It hadn't occurred to me that walking would be a very difficult task for a few days. It wasn't until two weeks later that I began to accept that my 'hardware' was a part of me and I needed to accept that. 

This post is for anyone that is about to, has, or is going through spinal fusion. All cases are unique in their own way, but they all have similarities. After my surgery I spent a great deal of my time on my phone looking for answers and support. I even made amends with a girl I thought hated me, which turned out she thought the same of me. I was able to "meet" other people who had the same surgery as me in foreign places like Europe. I was amazed at the stories these people had. "There's strength in numbers" and knowing that I had other people going though the same thing as me gave me strength to heal more than I thought I could. Now I hardly notice the rods and screws. 

                                                               Here are some photos...

This was the X-ray I got when I figured out I needed to have surgery. My curvature was at about 50 degrees, which is where surgery becomes mandatory.

This is when they stretched me out to see how flexible my spine was. For anyone that has to have this surgery, this was not painful. Two men grabbed my arms and my ankles and pulled me lightly. They took the x-ray and released me. It actually felt nice for my spine to be almost completely straight.

They do this to see how much the can "fix" your spine. Since mine was very flexible I had better results for my surgery. My spine is almost completely straight now; I believe I have a 2-5 degree curve now... so basically nothing! :) 

This was after my surgery, obviously. This was the dressing I had over the incision. My doctor used dissolvable stitches and a special glue to close it. The hurt a little bit to remove it due to the tape. I recommend taking your pain killers about 10-15 minutes before removing it. 

This was my scare four days after my surgery. I was already back home. I was standing on my own and walking very slowly. The black dot at the top of the scar is where a small tube was in my back that drained the fluid. It did not hurt removing it, but it was uncomfortable. It felt very odd, but it was a foreign object in my body; kind of expected. My scar now is hardly visible.

It has been over a year since my surgery. I barley recognize I had rods and screws in my back. I can't bend my spine at all, so I bend at my hips. I find sleep to be restless some nights. If I need to roll over, I usually wake up. On a bad night, I'll wake up about 2-3 times during the night. I have gained about 15 pounds since my surgery due to not being very active, so i recommend walking. Walk laps around your house if you have to. Not only will it help from gaining excessive weight, but it will also help you heal.

Here are some tips I've learned from recovering.
  • Walk it out ( Like I said walking heals. I went to the zoo about a month after my surgery. I walked the entire Cincinnati Zoo! I was very tired but felt so empowered that I was able to do it. I would take breaks if needed. A good tip is to bring a wheelchair incase you get tired.)
  • Listen to your spine. ( If your back hurts more than usual, stop what you are doing, slow down, and relax for about 5 minutes.)
  • Dress yourself (After my surgery it was hard to get dressed. My family would have to help me and it was embarrassing. I'm incredibly modest so this didn't sit well with me. About a week later I was pulling oversized t-shirts over my head. I know it sounds silly but by dressing yourself you are working your muscles in your shoulders in a light way.)
  • Travel (Two weeks after my surgery I went on a road trip with my then boyfriend. I was climbing over rocks and scaring his entire family, but it gave me a sense of confidence. Also, I hadn't been able to sleep well for about a well due to my back being numb from laying down 24/7. When I got home that night I was so tired, I was able to sleep all through the night. If you get to a point your back is hurting rest, don't go rock climbing like I did, simply walk around at the park or mall. Getting out and about will use your energy making it easier for you to get well rested sleep that night)
  • Study ( This is more for students, but at the time of my surgery I was a junior in high school. I was on homebound and had a teacher come to my house to help me with my class work. I had friends come over to teach me our lessons. I also used my laptop to search for online teachers. Khan Academy is a great source for all subjects! I studied a lot so when I got back I wouldn't be behind. Turned out I was AHEAD in all my classes besides math...)
Thanks for reading! If you are about to or have gone through this, comment your story! I'd love to hear it! Hope this helped anyone that has to go through this surgery. If you have any questions feel free to email me or comment! 

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