I was first diagnosed with scoliosis at the age of 11 at school during the test where you are asked to bend over. After wearing a brace for 2 years, I had my first surgery at the age of 13 to fix a curve measuring around 57 degrees. Unfortunately by the time I was 20, my spine had curved once again to 63 degrees and I was additionally diagnosed with kyphosis. At this time my current doctor advised I should go to HSS to a team that could handle my progressive scoliosis.
I was referred to Dr. Boachie's team (which included Dr. Kim). During my visit they advised I would need to have surgery once again which involved removing my previous rods attached to my spine, removing a rib and reconstructing my spine with new hooks, rods and a screen to straighten me out and remove the hump/deformity on my right side of my back. The entirety of the surgery would take 14 hours (more terrible for my parents/family then myself as I was asleep!). Without surgery I was risking the chance of being fully bent over in the future and losing full lung/breathing capacity at a younger age. My surgery was scheduled for 6 months after my consultation, during my college break. As this was a very stressful situation, the silver lining was how compassionate the doctors were at HSS and the assurance I would be able to lead a normal life.
My surgery took place on Dec 12, 2005. The surgery was both a painful experience but the biggest blessing - my curve was down to 27 degrees and I no longer had the huge hump (like a hunchback) on my back. As a 21 year old, I wanted to return to college and resume a normal life as quickly as possible. To say recovery was easy was an understatement. Post-surgery, I lost 20 lbs, no longer had muscles in my legs, could barely walk without a cane and was winded easily. My goal was to return to school within 2 months time. I aggressively attended physical therapy 3-4 times a week, walked on my own on a treadmill at home and quickly eased off the pain medication. Each week became easier and after 13 weeks, I was able to return to school with certain limitations - no carrying books, avoiding large crowds and no bending and twisting. Additionally I had to go to physical therapy for 2-3 days a week for a few months.
Flash forward 10+ years later my spine has thankfully not curved and no one even knows (unless I have told them) that I used to have a huge deformity on my back and that I have been through not 1 but 2 surgeries before the age of 21. Today I lead a fully functioning and active life. This year alone, I ran four 5Ks (which I never thought would be possible!) and I actively practice vinyasa and interval yoga 4-5 days a week - I can even do a headstand!
I am forever thankful to the doctors and staff at HSS. At one point I was there quite frequently and now only every 2-3 years to make sure my fusion is still in place with no concerns (now under the care of Dr. Cunningham). Each time I am there, I am always greeted by the nicest staff and put at ease as we go through my x-rays to check that I am okay, which thankfully I am :)
To have surgery at 13 and 21 as a young girl, it can be a lot. I feel it's important to share my story to let young adolescents know that scoliosis, though scary, can be treatable. The surgeries were the scariest moments of my life but with a positive attitude and determination everything can be overcome to lead a normal and non-painful life.
Additionally, I am always happy to speak to any patients who need scoliosis/kyphosis surgery.