After eight long years, she received the all-clear signal, with her curves stabilized just one degree shy of needing spinal fusion surgery.
2005 was one of the craziest years of my life, so when my daughter Karen started complaining of back pain in August, I have to admit it was only a blip on my radar screen. When her complaints continued into September, I took her to my chiropractor, who promptly told me she had scoliosis.
I quickly learned that scoliosis is a disease of hurrying and waiting, and trying to limit worrying. Act quickly if the curve is beyond 25 degrees – get the growing child to an orthopedist and in a brace before her curve progresses any further. Wait for her to stop growing to see how far the curve progresses. Worry whether bracing is the best option, and if you do (or do not) put your child in one, worry whether she will need surgery anyway. And if she has surgery (or not), worry whether that will do more harm than good.
(Although bracing is standard treatment, there is insubstantial research to determine its effectiveness. Bracing does not permanently straighten a curve; it merely slows or possibly stops the progression. If the curve passes 45 degrees, organ damage may begin, so spinal fusion surgery is considered. This is a brutal decision because the surgery is known for complications that can last a lifetime.)
I took Karen to a lab for x-rays after seeing my chiropractor, and then to an orthopedist with the first open appointment.
He said she needed a traditional back brace, but only to be worn at night. We complied, yet wondered what her spine was doing the other 14 hours of the day.
After six months of watching her curves progress, we sought out another orthopedist. He immediately prescribed a new, better fitting brace, to be worn all day.
We breathed a little easier, yet watched the curves slowly progress….
Then she grew 6 inches in less than a year, yet the orthopedist said the second brace was still fine. (Braces are custom built by orthotists, meant to push precisely at the peak points of each curve to straighten the spine as much as possible.) We worried again – how could it still work?
Off we went to another pediatric orthopedist, Dr. Charles Mehlman – the best in Cincinnati, we were told. He immediately prescribed a new brace.
Karen saw him every 3-6 months, having x-rays taken each time, with me holding my breath – would her curves stay below 45 degrees? Would her curves stabilize after she stopped wearing the brace in December 2009?
They did. For one appointment, two appointments, three…
Two months ago, Dr. Mehlman released her from his care. Whew! Her spine is still twisted, but the hurrying, waiting, and worrying is over. As a bonus, she has some neat pictures to show for it.
This post was written as part of The Daily Post Weekly Writing Challenge: Backward.