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Tuesday, 11 June 2013

The Scoliosis Story... Part One


In 2012 I had an operation to correct my scoliosis. It’s not really a big deal for me anymore, but I’ve recently made some new friends, shall we say, post op, and I keep forgetting how much or little they know and just casually mentioning my time in hospital. So I’m going to explain about scoliosis for them, and for anyone else who hasn’t heard of it. If you’ve experienced scoliosis yourself, I’d love to hear from you!

What is it, then? Well, scoliosis is not a disease. You cannot “catch” scoliosis or “get” it from doing something wrong. Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine, caused by muscle and bone growing at different rates which makes the spine bend in a way that it ideally shouldn’t. Think: bimetallic strip. That’s how it was explained to me. It's not necessarily hereditary, but does run in some families. It mostly becomes prominent in teenagers as there’s a lot of growth going on over a short period of time.

Back when I was about thirteen, I began to feel pain in my lower back when I’d sit or stand for a long time. I went to my local GP, and within about a minute he was able to diagnose me with scoliosis. It was visible when I bent over as the curve in my spine had caused my ribs to change shape slightly—I had a sort of bump in my back that wasn’t really noticeable when I stood up straight. I myself had seen that I had one shoulder slightly higher than the other, but hadn’t thought much of it until then.

In my case, I had a curve at the top of my spine. However, because my body naturally wanted to be straight, the bottom of my spine had curved the opposite way in what’s known as a “compensatory” curve.

You know when you learn a new word, it’s suddenly everywhere? For me, that was scoliosis. I discovered that 1 in every 3 people experiences it in one form or another: in fact, there are three people I know personally at school who've suffered. You could very easily go through life with a slight curve and not even notice. However, in my case, it was quite severe so we went to see a specialist.

I brought along an x ray of my spine and had two meetings over a period of several months. I was told that my curve wasn’t too serious, but would have to be monitored and corrected perhaps if it got worse. I was also told that pain wasn’t an issue, which I was a bit wary of: as much as surgery wasn’t a nice idea, even worse would be going through my whole life with such discomfort.

A while later, a relative of mine who works as a nurse (I won’t attempt to tell you what her job is, but she’s very important and clever) noticed my curve and asked us if we’d seen anyone about it. She recommended we get a second opinion and put us in touch with a surgeon called Patrick Kiely, who specialises in scoliosis surgery.

By this point, I’d been worrying a bit about the condition of my back. The pain hadn’t let up and I now had a visible “S” where most people’s spine is straight. Although my parents and I were none too keen on surgery, I’d been thinking about it a lot and thought maybe I’d just have to suck it up and do it. Ferret knew someone who’d had similar surgery and Duchess has had back problems for a long time. They both encouraged me to get something done. When I went to see Mr. Kiely, I was more or less decided. I wanted to be able to stand up straight!

Read part two here.

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