When I was at my 5th grade physical on July 15, 2007, I was afraid of needing shots. I didn’t think that I should have been afraid of anything else. I bent over so that my doctor, Dr. Wigder, could check my back and make sure that everything was growing normally. At first I really couldn’t tell what she was doing because to me it felt like she was just feeling around, and then she called my mom over and they both looked at my back. Meanwhile, I was staring at the green and crème colored tile floor and waiting for someone to say something. When Dr. Wigder finally did say something it was not what I was hoping to hear. I had been diagnosed with scoliosis.
When Dr. Wigder said that I had scoliosis I was thinking the same thing that you are probably thinking right now. What is scoliosis? Scoliosis is a sideways twisting curvature of the spine. The bones that make up the spine are called vertebrae. The cause of scoliosis is unknown. I have structural scoliosis which is a fixed curve of the spine that needs to be corrected with a doctor’s help. With scoliosis the curve of the spine is usually S-shaped or C-shaped. I had an S-shaped curve. The doctor is able to look at an x-ray of my spine and measure the curve. The curves are measured in degrees. Normally, curves less than 30 degrees are just left alone. A person can live just fine with a small curve. Curves that range from 40-50 degrees are treated with a brace that must be worn anywhere from 16-24 hours a day! Curves that are 50 degrees or greater can not be treated with a brace and must be fixed surgically. The curvature of my spine at the time I was diagnosed was greater than 40 degrees. So, my parents and the doctor agreed that surgery would be the best way to correct the problem.
I went to the first doctor on August 13th, 2007. He said that my curve was at 42 degrees. All that he could do was brace it to help me stop growing incorrectly. My dad and I walked out speechless, because Dr. Wigder had said that he would probably just watch it. We were at the point where we were going to order my brace but my mom said that she didn’t have the “right feeling about this guy.” So we went to a different doctor, Dr. Rinella. My mom and I went to the office and were very surprise to hear that I would need much more than a brace to stop me from growing sideways. In fact he said that I would need to have surgery. I could not believe my ears, I wanted to say to him, “No you measured wrong; I actually don’t need to have a spinal fusion surgery”. But I couldn’t because I was standing there and looking at the x-ray with him, and he was right. As much as I wanted to tell myself this isn’t happening, I didn’t because I had to toughen up and face the facts; I would be having spinal fusion surgery on December 26, 2007.
Everyday before my surgery I tried not to think about it. When I got back to school from my appointment I told my best friend that I would be having the surgery. I also told her not to worry about me because I would be fine. She and I started crying right there and then. She and her family, along with lots of other families, prayed for me very frequently and that is what I believe made me strong enough to go through with it. I can’t put it into words how thankful I was and still am for them. Although I knew that something could go wrong, those people, relatives and extremely close friends made me feel great!
I will never forget December 25th, 2007, Christmas Day, because that was the night I slept on my mom’s floor in her room. My Grandma was going to be staying with my two little brothers, Timmy, who was 6 and William, who was 1, while my parents and I were at the hospital. She was in my bed which meant that I had to sleep on my mom’s floor. The next morning I had to wake up very early because I needed to be at Loyola Medical University at 6:00 A.M. When I got there all I tried to think about were the people who love me and wanted the surgery to go well. A nurse put my IV in and then let me say goodbye to my parents and wheeled me into the operating room. Six hours later I woke up and all I wanted to do was see my parents. The pain when I woke up was VERY bad! When I finally saw my parents come into the little curtained off area in the HUGE recovery room, I was so happy to see them that I actually smiled! My parents told me that I was kind of out of it. I was very thirsty. The nurse told my parents to give me some ice chips to eat. The cold of the ice felt good on my dry lips. My parents told me that I was making funny faces when they put the little spoon of ice cubes in my mouth!
After being in the recovery room for a couple of hours, I was moved to a room on the Children’s Ward. It was down the hall from the play room and stuff. I loved my nurse that I had while I was there. Her name was Tammy. She was young and energetic, and that made me feel very cheerful and in probably less pain than if I had a dreadful nurse. I will always remember when my mom would want me to sit up and I would automatically press the nurse button on the TV remote, because I did not want her to help me get up. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel safe with her it was that I felt like Tammy knew what she was doing more than my mom did. There were a couple of teenagers that were walking around and asking kids what movie they would like to watch. My mom and I chose “Inspector Gadget”. While we were watching it a mail man came into my room with a basket full of little people cookies and a card from our family friends, the Fraziers. After that we got a call from Tammy letting us know that she was on her way to see me because I had a visitor at the door. I sat up in a chair and waited for my visitor. I was so anxious to see who it was going to be. When I saw my best friend come into my room I was so happy. She had bought me a present, a little stuffed animal lamb and a pair of slippers (with non-slip soles). She told me that she got me the slippers because she couldn’t wait to see me walk and be my regular self again. I was so thankful for her that I started to stand up on my own to give her a hug until I realized that I couldn’t stand up. She saw me trying to stand and realized what I wanted, so she just walked over and gave me a hug. That was the first day I walked. I went to the play room and made her a card to tell her how much I appreciated the slippers.
When I got home everyone was so happy to see me. I had a lot of visits from family and friends. They mostly came to visit and make sure that everything went fine with the surgery. Some of them gave me gifts and stayed at my house for a little while. I am currently going to physical therapy with DuPage Medical Group. I love it because when I go a whole week pain free it is very rewarding. I have been doing my exercises. I go every week and do lots of fun things. I mostly like it because I get to use fun exercise equipment.
It has been one year since my surgery. I have 2 titanium rods and 6 pins in my spine but I am still the same person. I am thankful for all my family and friends who prayed and supported me during that time. I am a stronger person now who can face almost anything!
What’s wrong with me? Why am I the one who isn’t the most athletic or the person who always has something going on because I am in so many different activities? I am the one who does church choir and sat on my butt for a living. These were the questions I would ask myself everyday when I was sitting around watching TV or playing the Wii, right up until July 23rd, 2009.
It all started in the dirty white, freezing-cold doctor’s office. I had already had a scoliosis spine fusion surgery in 5th grade and my doctor was now looking at the most recent x-ray. “Well, Katie,” he said, “it looks like we’re going to have to go back in and fix that upper curve of yours.” Scoliosis is a spinal condition where the spine is growing in the shape of a C or an S. Mine was shaped like an S so, when I had my first scoliosis surgery it was only for the bottom curve. Now, since the top wasn’t fixing itself, my doctor had to take out everything and re-do the spine top to bottom. That meant two titanium rods on both sides of the spine and 26 screws drilled into my vertebra. OUCH! Sure, I had already been through this but I was still very scared. Whenever I would say something like “I’m really scared,” my mom would just say something like “You’ve got me and daddy and we are NOT going to let ANYTHING happen to you.” For that, I was extremely grateful. The surgery would be done at Silver Cross Hospital in Joliet IL at 6:00 AM on July 23rd 2009.
Preparing for the big day my parents and I prayed and went to church a lot because church is like my second home and my second family. I don’t know if I could’ve done it without my friends and family by my side. I woke at 4:45am in a sweat and shaking so hard that I could hear the springs in my mattress hitting against each other as I shook. When I stood up, I almost fell, but I pulled myself together and put on my soft, new sweat suit. I got into the hospital, where it was FREEZING, as usual, and got into a room where I got my IV. Then, the room was filled with “Good luck” or “I love you and I promise to see you soon.” Before I knew it, I was out cold.
When I woke up my eyelids felt like they weighed 100 pounds. There were about 4 nurses surrounding me and asking if I could hear them or if I could open my eyes for them. I tried to tell them that I could hear them but my throat felt like someone had shoved a bunch of needles down it and I couldn’t even open my mouth. So I just nodded and forced myself to open my eyes a little bit. I was in a big room with monitors everywhere and tubes sticking out of my skin that weren’t there when I fell asleep. Finally, they pushed my out of the recovery room and on my way to my new hospital room. Then, my sorrow was lifted and my pain vanished as I saw the two people I had missed for so many hours, my mom and dad. I could suddenly open my eyes for longer periods of time, and I wasn’t in such a daze anymore. When I got to my room, my dad had to leave so it was just me and my mom.
The next couple of days I could get my own drink of water of my table next to the bed or feed myself, overall I felt pretty great, then came the 2nd night in the hospital. I had been hallucinating pretty badly that day but at night, I went ballistic. At first, I thought I was at my house, but then I would really be in the hospital. I was getting out of bed then back in a lot and I was screaming, “I wanna go home!!!” I called my dad a bunch of times begging him to come get me. It was really scary for my mom, and it lasted a long time, until a pediatrician came in and took of the nausea patch behind my ear and I calmed down and fell asleep. The next morning, I barely remembered anything that had happened. In the afternoon I climbed the stairs for the first time, and that may not sound like a huge accomplishment but it’s actually a big deal.
The next day I went home to my incredibly supportive, loving, and committed family. When I went up to my room to take a nap I found that my dad had re-painted my room. It was now pink, with a yellow strip of paint at the top border of my room with words written in it that represented me, which made me all the more happy to be home. I recovered very quickly and was on roller skates with friends after just 3 weeks.
When ever I look back on what I thought of myself before the surgery I just laugh and think about how stupid it was that I thought I was weak. Every time I think about my experience in self discovery I feel blessed and gifted. So, the next time you think negatively about yourself ask your self, “Who can possibly stand through____________?” and fill in whatever you’ve ever accomplished in life. Nothing feels better than knowing that you are stronger than before.