Fixed: My Back Story (Sequel to ‘Crooked’)

Not to be dramatic or anything, but I almost died again this past summer… twice.

 

The first time was a traumatizing car accident, which left no mark on me; however, my car was totaled.

 

The second time was an unexpected back surgery having to do with my scoliosis. As some people may already know, I’ve had scoliosis since I was a small child. If you don’t know what scoliosis is, the term refers to a condition that forces the spine to not be straight or crooked—AKA me. I thought after my back surgery in 2013, it was done and over with. I went into spinal fusion, and I got metal rods put into my spine, which made me taller and removed most of my flexibility.

 

If there’s anything I wish for people to understand about the conditions of my first surgery, it’s that the fusion limited me in many different ways. Having a straight back that can’t bend any further than a flat table limited my dance abilities, which was one of the most important things to me. I loved dancing, and it’s something that I’ve been doing since I was little. It took years for me to get to where I was before my most recent surgery. I was finally comfortable with how my body looked when I danced, while before I used to feel so stiff initially after the procedure. I had to push 10 times harder than I did before any spine fusion. I didn’t think this previous summer could get any worse after my spinal surgeon told me I’d need surgery again.

 

 

Looking back at it now, it was sort of a blessing hidden in disguise.

 

 

It all started with a bump. It was right next to the original incision. I didn’t think it had to do with scoliosis because it had been six years—far too long for any kind of infection. I was healed, and I was in college pursuing a dance minor. Every year, my body adjusted to the condition of my back with the metal rods.

 

We went to multiple doctors, two in Winona, and I went to three different appointments in the city before, finally, a surgeon recommended to my mom and I a simple check-up with my old spinal surgeon. I was sobbing when Dr. Tenner Guillame told us he thought it was a slow-growing infection, because the only way to take it out was to have the incision opened up, and to remove the original rods I had put in me from 2013.

 

It was one of the hardest times of my life. I just got a job with Lifetouch Portrait Studios that summer, a big step in the career field I was planning for. I had to quit not only this job, but my usual summer job at Subway. I gave up on studying abroad for a semester and gave up my entire summer. On top of that, after the surgery, to get rid of my infection, I was forced to take home an IV, which required medicine every 12 hours. This IV was in me for five weeks. I came to school by the second week of classes. Everyone was already moved in and settled.

 

 

Although the physical pain from this surgery wasn’t as bad as the first one, what made this summer more difficult was the IV picc-line. My mom and I learned how to use the basic syringes and the process of flushing out the antibiotics with saline and heparin. To say it was stressful is an understatement. The line went straight to my blood, and anything bad that got in there would have affected me greatly. I had to keep up with the medicine for five weeks along with oral antibiotics afterwards.

 

Going through the back-healing process all over again was strange because I knew what was going to happen, so in a way I felt prepared.

 

If you learn that you are going to have scoliosis, here are some helpful tips that got me through what I’ve learned first-handedly.

 

1.  Relax the day of surgery.

I had my surgery both times under Gillette’s Children's Hospital. I am 20 years old right now, so I thought I was going to get my second procedure at the adjacent adult hospital, but I ended up replacing someone else’s scheduled time. It’s frightening, yes, but you also have to remember that you’re in good hands.

 

2.  Try to schedule your surgery when you’re on a break from school.

Both of my procedures were done during the summer, which sucked but I had at least a month to heal in both cases, which is very necessary for your health and recovery.

 

3.  For getting out of bed, lean on your side and push up.

 

4.  Always have ice on you. 

You have no idea how much ice has saved my life during recovery.

 

5.  Sleep! 

All the pain medications make you feel woozy, but it makes the time go by faster if you let yourself snooze.

 

  • Special Tip: The hospital I went to allowed me to bring one special object to bring my comfort, so make sure you bring something you hold dear to your heart to remind you that you will be okay.

 

I remember at one of my check-ups, there was a little boy who had asked me if I came to the hospital often. It had been years since I’d gone to the hospital, so I told him, “I used to.”

 

He looked kind of bored at first, and then openly said aloud, “Oh, I have scoliosis. What are you here for?”

 

I don’t know why that meant so much to me, but it made me genuinely hope for others that they will never have to go through the experience I did. While this did make me stronger, I felt like it broke a part of me I can’t get back.

 

When you go through a brace, two surgeries and a special picc-line that had to be done at home even, you realize how lucky you are. This is all unpreventable, and some people aren’t that lucky and must be hospitalized at all times. This experience was truly eye-opening to my own attitude about the privileges I’ve had for so long.

 

 

Even before my metal rods were removed, I don’t think I appreciated how healthy I was. I was living like anyone else, and I worked long and hard to get to where I was physically. I read a girl’s story about her scoliosis that was similar to mine with a degree around 63. Her body looked stiff, like mine to describe, but I was inspired by her because she still kept at her passions, like I did, despite the limitations. I privately messaged her and she told me, “Rods do not define your dancing.” Even though I don’t have metal rods now, I still have my fusion itself. I feel looser to some extent, but my body has the same limitations as before.

 

Becoming looser this fall has made me appreciate how my body dances more than ever. I haven’t felt this free since before my 2013 procedure. Now that everything is over, my body dances better than it has all these years I’ve worked for. It’s a blessing and a curse. I wonder all the time how I’d look dancing without my back fused at all.

 

A fusion doesn’t affect who you are—no injury nor health limitation does.

 

 

While this past summer was a scary one, I do hope someone can read this article and become inspired through my experiences. It gets better; it always does. I was able to even buy my full-frame camera while in the hospital, and I’m so thankful for this. 

 

Make sure you’re looking out for your friends and their health—nothing was more supportive than having good friends at my tough times. My friend from back home recreated a Teen Beach Movie short film with her college friends because it was the movie I watched all summer during my first initial procedure in 2013.

 

To conclude this long article, I want to share some dance videos of me with the rods vs. without the rods. I’ve been dancing again since I got back to school and it’s a completely different experience. Even though I may look exactly the same, I feel different when I dance now.

 

I like sharing my scoliosis experience with others. I forgot the small things that usually bothered me within a short span of time because I got caught in a situation that was bigger than myself.

 

But for now, I am fixed.