This was first published in 2011, but I felt it was worth republishing for those who may be suffering from scoliosis.  In addition to the other helpful blogs that I have done on scoliosis, I am planning to include our daughter’s 1980 scoliosis experience.

This series starts with the Diagnosis of Scoliosis, then to my personal story from 1958.  There will be many links to click on regarding “scoliosis” information, videos and resources.  

We would greatly appreciate your input and personal experience and hope that you find this and the links and video helpful in learning more about scoliosis.


This is the first of a Series of Blogs on Scoliosis.

“What is Scoliosis?”  Scoliosis is a medical condition in which the spine is curved to one side. The thoracic (chest) or lumbar ( lower back) regions are the most commonly affected.  Viewed on an X-Ray it may be a curvature which appears as an “S” curve or a “C” curve.  Scoliosis is typically classified as congenital (abnormality at birth) or idiopathic (unknown cause).  Scoliosis can be diagnosed by a physical exam of the spine, hips and legs along with X-Rays of the spine. It is very often diagnosed at about age 10-15 and the progressive type seems to be more prevalent in females.  There are also Neuromuscular and Degenerative types.  There is more information on these different types of scoliosis on  WebMed.

Scoliosis is often discovered through school screenings at 5th or 6th grade or through a routine Pediatric Appointment, which then  will often require X-Rays of the spine. One indicator is one shoulder lower than another with opposite hip slightly raised.   If the curvature is minor it may just need to be watched and may not requre any agressive treatment.

Sometimes excercise, Pilates or other Therapies will help keep the curvature from increasing and may help with actually treating the curvature and/or pain involved.

Another great reference is MayoClinic

You may wish to read my personal story of having severe scoliosis at age 13 and what was then called “a complete spinal fusion” in 1958 and the protocol used at that time.  Methods have dramatically changed.


Part 3—My Scoliosis Surgeries

On Sept 24, 1958, I was wheeled in for my first surgery for Scoliosis. This surgery was to straighten from the last Thoracic vertebra (T-12) to the last Lumbar vertebra (L-5).   See Spinal Column  This was the longest and most painful of the two surgeries.

Cadaver bone chips were attached a section of my partially straightened spine section and would hopefully grow into my own bones, which meant many bedridden months.  At that time the Harrington Rod was not yet used in most spinal fusions.

The surgery took about 5 hours.  I vaguely remember starting to come awake during the procedure.  I was then given Ether, (an older anesthetic), which they had not planned on using.  I was put in Critical Care, (ICU) although really not sure what it was called back then.  I guess I kept asking to take the terrible smell away, which was the Ether smell.   I think my parents applied some kind of perfumed cream to my arm to help cover the smell of the ether.  (To this day, I do not like perfume).  I was in critical condition for about 8 days and my parents were told that I might not pull through.  One of my worst memories is that a new Dr. came into my room and sat on my bed to speak with me.  It moved my back enough so that I was in so much pain that I lost consciousness.  My parents said that every time that Dr. would pass by the room, I would scream.  I was told that he felt terrible and had not realized that he should not sit on my bed.

I believe that I was in the hospital for 10-14 days and then moved back to Mary Free Bed to await the next surgery on my thoracic/lumbar area. I was back in the Milwaukee Brace.  During my hospital stay, I had several roommates, unfortunately all in critical condition suffering from broken necks, brain tumor surgery and one having a spinal fusion. My folks kept telling me that following surgery each had been transferred to a different room, but several months later told me the truth, which was they did not survive their surgeries. 

My next surgery of the thoracic spine was scheduled for Oct. 28th.  I was most reluctant to have another surgery, but knew it had to be done.  The second operation was from Thoracic 12 up to and including Thoracic 5, again with bone grafts.  I recovered more rapidly from this surgery back in Mary Free Bed and was transported home in Dec. shortly after I turned 14. 

Surgeries today are done much differently.  For a personal story from the new way to treat scoliosis read Michelle’s story.

Always laugh when you can.  It is cheap medicine.

Part 4—10 months  at home in bed




SCOLIOSIS–Personal Story


Part 2   Diagnosis

My scoliosis was suspected at the end of my 7th grade school year on a routine Doctor visit.  My Mother had been saying to me ”Martha Kay, stand up straight”.  I thought I was standing up straight, but had noticed that my hip was raised on one side of my body, but just thought it was part of puberty and I was developing a waist. (I was just 13 and scoliosis screening was not yet done).

After a summer of daily sessions of PT and the curve continued to progress, I was sent to Grand Rapids from my home town of Kalamazoo, MI. for evaluation.  It was determined that I had a 40-degree thoracic and a 60-degree lumbar “S” curve.  My Orhtopedist, Dr. Charles Frantz, (see 1962) was considered the best in MI for treating scoliosis.

Milwaukee Brace

That August I was admitted to Mary Free Bed  Convalescent Home and placed in a Milwaukee Brace. (At left). The brace was routinely moved up under my chin as they began stretching the spine to straighten it as much as possible, prior to my first scheduled surgery on Sept. 24, 1958. It had been a shock to me that I was now bedridden, which I had not been told prior to my appointment in Grand Rapids. I began to become a talker, mostly to keep myself occupied and to entertain others in various medical conditions at Mary Free Bed. (Definitely not a free bed). When any of the staff would see that I could move my head, the chin part of the brace was moved up to stretch my spine. I thought I would be looking like a giraffe before I was done. I had relatives visit about once a week. When I reached about 5’5″, surgery was scheduled for Sept. 24, 1958 on the lumbar area from thoracic 12 to lumbar 5.

See Diagram of  the Vertebral Column.

If you have a story about your scoliosis or spinal fusion, please leave it under “comments” or email me at marty@lawnexpressions.com.

Part 2–Surgeries—next in series