I am blessed. The fact that I have 2 wonderful kids, a wonderful husband, and a job I love is a miracle. If I had been born at any time in the past other than the 1900s, or if I had been born in a country without access to amazing medical expertise I probably wouldn’t even be alive today. Why? Because I have a condition called Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS).
What is Scoliosis?
Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine. There are different types of scoliosis – some babies are born with it, sometimes in conjunction with other medical problems (congenital scoliosis), and others develop it during adolescence for an unknown reason (the type that I have). It occurs more commonly in girls than boys. There can be a genetic predisposition but for many people with adolescent-onset scoliosis there are no known relatives with the condition (as was in my case).
My story with Scoliosis
When I was about 15, my Mum noticed that I wasn’t sitting straight at the computer one day. She trained as a chiropractor in her early twenties so she got me to bend forward and she was shocked to discover that my ribcage was uneven. She took me to my local GP who diagnosed me with scoliosis. I had some x-rays taken (the first of hundreds!) and I was referred to a specialist. At the time that I was diagnosed, I had a double curve (a backwards S shape) of about 63 degrees in the thoracic and about 50 degrees in the lumbar.
Because my curves were already quite severe, I was not able to wear a brace. A brace is often the first treatment option for people with less severe curves. My two options at this stage were to just wait and monitor my condition, or to have surgery. Being a scared 15 year old at the time – I opted for the “wait and see” approach.
Over the coming year I had updated x-rays to track the progression of my curve. Unfortunately in my case, my curve didn’t stop as my specialist had predicted. It continued to get worse. I sought another opinion from another specialist as it was starting to impact on my daily life. Because my rib cage was twisting it was compressing on my lungs and heart and I was getting more severe back pain. Just visiting the shops with my Mum was becoming a huge task and I would have to stop to catch my breath.
My second specialist felt that I needed surgery urgently. By this time, my curves had progressed to 94 degrees thoracic and about 85 degrees in the lumbar. As scared as I was of surgery, I knew that I needed to have it to ensure that I could lead a normal life.
Just prior to my 17th birthday I had a spinal fusion. The surgery took about 12 hours. The road to recovery was slow and painful. My Mum was the most wonderful support. She was there with me every day from first thing in the morning until night time. I couldn’t have done it without her.
Living with scoliosis
My spine will always have a curve. It’s something that I’ve learned to live with. It does cause me some pain on a daily basis. My muscles in my upper back do get sore after the daily chores of looking after my 2 small children and running my business. To keep my chronic pain under control I do need to get regular massages about once a fortnight and I have a great chiropractor who keeps my upper back and neck happy 🙂
I am SO grateful to the expertise of my fabulous surgeon Dr John Stephen. He gave me a second chance to live a happy and fulfilling life and to be able to have my 2 gorgeous kids. I am one lucky lady! I hope you are kicking back somewhere enjoying your retirement Dr Stephen!!
For more information about scoliosis – including how to check your own children with a very quick “bend forward” test, visit Scoliosis Australia.
If you or your child have scoliosis and would like to ask me any questions be sure to get in touch!