Last summer, I was diagnosed with scoliosis. Scoliosis is when someone’s spine is curved and crooked. I was shocked when I found out. I did not know anything about this condition, but, it turns out many people, mostly young girls, have scoliosis.
At the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year, my back started to hurt whenever I ran in P.E. When I started coming to my mom’s office (she’s my school’s nurse) earlier in the year, it was the same old “lie down and rest for a while”. But this one special time, she told me to go in the bathroom and take my shirt off.
When she got there, she brought in a handheld tool called a scoliometer. A scoliometer measures the degree of the curve of your spine. My mom called my doctor to make an urgent appointment. The next day, she checked me out of school and we headed for the doctor. When my mom, my dad, and I got called back, the doctor pulled out a scoliometer, just like my mom’s! Later, she told my mom and dad that their x-ray machine was broken and they needed to take me to Arkansas Children’s Hospital, but we should not wait long to get an x-ray taken, and she recommended that we go straight to the hospital. In the car, I started to bawl. I told my mom, “It must be really bad. She (the doctor) sent us to Children’s. That’s where you go if you’re really sick.” Turns out, the lady that did the x-rays was really nice. I was really embarrassed to wear a hospital gown, but they felt like pajamas. After 10 minutes in the radiology room, (the x-ray room), my family drove me home. I could tell something was not right. Everyone was too quiet. I was scared.
We found out from the doctor’s report that I had what is called a “double S curve.” That means I have two curves in my spine. The top curve measured at 33 degrees, and the bottom curve measured 28 degrees. Based on the amount of curve a person has, there are different options for treatment. The options are observation, bracing and surgery. My measurements required bracing. My parents talked with me about what bracing meant. Bracing usually means a hard plastic brace with some straps. It was also going to mean that I would probably have to give up dance. I wanted to know why this was happening to me.
My parents did not want to make me wear a hard brace if there was any way around it. They didn’t want me to hurt, but they also didn’t want me to have to give up doing things I loved. My mom started researching scoliosis and talking to some people on Facebook. She remembered a girl who used to go to my school. She had scoliosis, too. My mom contacted the girls’ mom and found out what they were doing to deal with the scoliosis. The lady told my mom about a comfortable, soft back brace called SpineCor and about a doctor in Memphis that does it. This brace was pretty new, but had good results, and the best part was that I would not have to quit dance or bouncing on a trampoline or anything that I enjoyed doing.
My mom called the doctor’s office a couple of weeks later. Later, my mom told me that in a few weeks, I would be fitted for the SpineCor Brace. Questions flowed through my head. How long will it take? Who is this doctor? Can I take my sister for comfort?
Then, the day came. We dropped my sister off at school before we went to Memphis. Of course, my mom brought my schoolwork. I had to wear large clothing, so the brace could fit underneath. Finally, my name was called. My family was brought to a large room, full of medical degrees and posters. Then, the doctor came in. At first, she asked me TONS of questions. Then, with a kind smile, she said, “Okay. Let me get the brace and I will be right back.” Within 5 minutes, she was back. In her arms, was a jungle of white straps, matching shorts, and a black Sharpie. First, she familiarized my mom and dad with the parts. Then, she wrote numbers on the straps and shorts. After lots of work, came fitting time! I am not going to lie, it was uncomfortable. With every adjustment of the straps or pull on the brace, I wanted to cry a little bit more. But I didn’t cry, because if I did then my parents would cry because I was hurting and I didn’t want to show them that I was. The doctor promised me that over time it would get a little looser and would feel normal in a day or two. I was told to wear the brace 20 hours a day, with two 2-hour breaks during the day. After I was fitted, the doctor brought me back to take two more x-rays: one with the brace on and one without. Once the x-rays came back, the doctor said that within 5 minutes of putting on the brace, my spine straightened a little! I was going to have to come back to Memphis every 3 months for regular check-ups from now on.
At first, the brace was tight and made it difficult to breath or to sleep. When I got to my nana’s house to pick up my sister, she ran out of the door. It sort of hurt to hug her. Inside, everyone was hugging me. My Nana even gave me a gift card to my favorite store! My mom, my nana and I started to cry. I heard her say, “She’s so brave.” My Poppa even made my favorite dinner! When I was home, I did my usual bedtime routine.
One of the biggest challenges with any scoliosis brace is wearing clothes. We have to buy clothes a size or two bigger than I would normally wear because of the brace. I can’t wear some clothes because they are just made too tight. But my parents have been awesome and taking me to the mall a lot to find great, cool clothes!
At school the next day, hardly anyone noticed my brace. If people see it or ask about it, I’m not afraid to tell them. I’ve really started forgetting that I have it on. The best part was that I haven’t had to give anything up, like dance and gymnastics. I also ran for Student Council this year at school, and won! I’m also taking acting classes now. And P.E. doesn’t hurt like it did before!
My family and friends have been super supportive. Whenever I have a visit coming up, my family and friends pray for me. Our most recent visit brought very good news, my spine curves lessened by eight degrees on top and seven degrees on the bottom! That made me feel like maybe we were doing the right thing, and the doctor said that I was improving so fast because of my dedication to wearing the brace the right way and the right amount of time each day!
I want other girls to know that scoliosis is something that you can live with and manage. Your life doesn’t have to change because of this. I want to say thank you to the lady who recommended this brace to my mom. And I want to say thank you to my doctor, for introducing my family and I to SpineCor. I also want to say thank you to my family and friends for being there for support. I hope and pray that God keeps his hands on my back, no matter what.