University of Iowa Children's Hospital
Last Revision Date: June 2003
Hi my name is Kristin, I'm 15 years old. This book is about what it was like have scoliosis and going through back surgery.
I found out that I had scoliosis when I was in 5th grade. Our class was getting checked by the school nurse, and she asked me if a doctor had ever looked at my back before. I knew that that didn't sound good. She called our house to talk to my mom and told her that I should see a doctor because I could have scoliosis. I was scared when I heard that because I didn't know anything about scoliosis.
I started going to the chiropractor for my scoliosis and continued for about 6 months. But that wasn't working. In the meantime my cousin Holly had just found out that she also has scoliosis. Then someone suggested to us that we should go see the children's orthopedic doctor in Iowa City, Dr. Weinstein. Now I should explain to you,that scoliosis is hereditary in my family. About 15 of my relatives on my dad's side of the family have scoliosis.
I went to see Dr. Weinstein and got some X-rays taken of my back. He told me that my spine had a curve of 38 degrees. He told me that when your spine's curve is more than 40 degrees he recommends that you have the rod surgery. Since I was at 38 degrees I could choose between having surgery or wearing the back brace. I chose the brace. I wore the brace for almost 2 years. The next time I went back to Iowa City Dr. Weinstein told me my curve was actually getting a little better, but then it went back to 38 degrees again. When I went to my next appointment Dr. Weinstein told me my curve had changed drastically to 45 degrees. Now I knew I was going to have to have surgery. I was scared and I cried but my parents told me it would be okay.
We set the date for surgery, June 26, 2001. That made it all seem so real and way too soon. My family and I decided not to tell anyone yet about my surgery. I had so many questions and things that I wondered about, so I told one of my friends. That made me feel better. We picked to have my surgery in the summer so I wouldn't miss any school, but I'm very athletic and this would mean I would miss playing softball.
I started taking iron pills and eating things with lots of iron in them. I wanted to be very heaIthy when I had surgery so I would recover fast. I decided not to give my own blood because I didn't want to have to think about having surgery until I had to. We had planned a family vacation before my surgery and I wanted to enjoy it.
Pretty soon the day before surgery was here. We went to Iowa City for the day. I had a lot of tests done. First I had an EEG done. That's where they stick these wires to you that make your toes twitch. It tells them which nerve in your spine controls what. Don't worry, it doesn't hurt. Then we went and talked to Dr. Weinstein; he answered a lot of my questions.
After that I got my height and weight taken, and pictures taken of my back. Later we talked to the anesthesiologist, and he told me what was going to happen tomorrow. It was a really long day filled with lots of worry, but we made it through it.
Finally the day of surgery was here. I was really scared. I told my mom and dad that I wasn't going to go to the hospital, I was just going to stay home! Once we got to the hospital we went to the surgical floor. I got on a bed and waited with my parents in the pre-surgery room. They gave me a Game Boy and games to play with. Then a lady came and put the EEG on me again. Then the anesthesiologist came and told us that they would be ready for me in a few minutes. When he came back they took me to the operating room. I said good-bye to my parents. They told me they would see me when I woke up. I was really scared and I cried. A nurse decided to cheer me up by telling me a joke. (But I didn't get it!) When we got in the operating room it was really white, bright, and cold. But a nice nurse asked me if I wanted a blanket. She knew I was scared so she held my hand. Then they put a mask over my mouth and I was out! The next thing I knew I was in the recovery room. After that they took me to my hospital room. My parents were in there waiting for me. I remember I asked them what time it was. They told me it was almost 7:00 p.m. I couldn't believe it. I thought it was only noon!
The next few days were all about getting better. The nurses came in a lot at first to check my blood pressure and temperature. I also had a machine called a PCA pump (Patient Controlled Analgesia.) That was nice because when ever I had pain I could push a button and in a few minutes it would be gone. I also had an IV because I could not eat any food until my stomach woke up. They gave me a breathing device that you blow in. It helps keep your lungs clear of fluids. I slept a lot. My mom got some movies from the Patients' Library, but I don't think I stayed awake long enough to watch the whole movie. I had a catheter in so I didn't have to worry about getting up to go to the bathroom. The day after surgery I got to sit up in bed.
On the third day I got to get out of bed and sit up in a chair. When I stood up I was shocked. I felt so much taller. My mom said I grew 2 inches taller. Before I knew it on the forth day I was walking. At first it was kind of hard but I got used to it. Once I was able to get out of bed and walk they took the catheter out.
A lot of my friends and family came to visit me. It was fun to get visitors. My favorite part of the day was when the nurse brought the mail. It really helped cheer me up to know that so many people cared about me. On the fourth and fifth day I went to physical therapy to help me walk and I went up a flight of steps. I got to start drinking water and juice on the fourth day, and I got to eat soft foods on the fifth day. Boy was I happy about that!
On the sixth day of being at the hospital, I got to come home!!! I was so excited. The car ride home was pretty rough, but once we got home I felt a lot better. My family and friends had put up a "Welcome Home" sign on our front door. It took me awhile to get used to life at home instead of the hospital. I took pain medication for awhile, and went for lots and lots of walks. For the first few nights I got up at least once. After having surgery I had some pretty strange dreams. They told me that was normal because of all the medications.
Now when I look back at the whole thing, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I know that might sound crazy to you if you are about to have surgery, but trust me it's worth it. I am so glad I did it and it's over! All my friends are jealous because I have such good posture. The thing
that was the hardest for me was not getting to play any sports for six months. The time actually went by pretty fast. I have no regrets about having surgery. Now it's been almost two years since I had surgery. I'm really active: I play basketball, softball, run track, and I'm on the dance
team. Since I had surgery my cousin Holly also had surgery. It's been over a year since she had surgery and she's doing great too!
Before I had surgery I had a lot of questions. I thought it helped to read books about scoliosis and surgery. That's why I wrote this book. So hopefully it helped answer some of your questions!
Remember how I said scoliosis was hereditary my family? Well now we are involved in a research study program at the University of Iowa Hospital. Everyone in my family went to the hospital and had some blood drawn. Now the research doctors are trying to figure out what gene causes scoliosis, and how to prevent it. I really hope they find a cure!!!