WHAT IS SCOLIOSIS?

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.

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PART 1

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

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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.

Growing up with a Spinal Fusion

Part 5: Growing up with a Spinal Fusion


During my teen years, I pretty much did what other teens do, although I was unable to participate  in Gym Classes.  I could ride a bike but with a very rigid posture.  Although I was very small boned and had large breasts, which made me quite self-conscious with my very erect posture, I was a happy teen.  I became quite outgoing and always befriended the underdog.  I dated quite a few nice guys and attended most dances and activities and never really felt uncomfortable about others knowing of my spinal fusion.

I had been told because of the extent of the fused spine that having children might cause a problem.  This did worry me some as I loved kids and was a camp counselor at age 15 ½ at the YWCA for 2 yrs. And then spent 2 summers with girls who had been placed in a special school.  We had camp at a Lake in MI even though the girls were from Toledo, OH.  I enjoyed this camp and loved living and working with the girls, primarilily in crafts and swimming, along with day-to-day activities and a few outings.  My back always gave me some pain, but staying active helped. Swimming was my favorite sport and still is.   More on my past.

I met my husband, John, in college and we got married after our sophomore year.  I took some time off of college to work full time at a State Home for the Physically and Mentally Challenged  individuals doing Arts and Crafts and Occupational Therapy.  I loved the job and the residents.  Mentally challenged individuals are now rarely institutionalized and are mainstreamed into society  if possible.

I did not get pregnant for over 3 years and we thought it might be becasue of my spinal fusion.  We applied for adoption and then I found out that we were pregnant.  Just 2 weeks after our 4th Anniversary we had a baby girl, then a boy and another girl about 2 years apart. I was considered a “high risk” preganancy and advised to gain only about 15 lbs. with each pregnancy.  I only weighed 122 lbs. when I delivered our first girl.  I did not seem to have much difficulty carrying the babies, but labor was all in my back and they could not do an epidural as there was no spacing between my vertabrae.  We were very happy that we had been able to have 3 children.  It was suggested that we stop with the 3 as each baby was larger.  Read more on spinal fusions.

Part 5 — Growing up with a Spinal Fusion

Part 6–Problems and Solutions living with a Spinal Fusion

Part 7:  Our Daughter’s Scoliosis Story

Part 8:  What Angelie is doing now

Part 8–RESOURCES for SCOLIOSIS

MY SCOLIOSIS SURGERY

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