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Antoinette W. | Adult Scoliosis Patient

Adult Scoliosis Patient Experience: In Her Own Words

When I look back at the time before my surgery to correct severe scoliosis, it is hard to believe what all I could not do or was limited in doing. I had declined so much physically that I depended on a walker, and my family was even considering a care center for me. My scoliosis was definitely getting the better of me.

I went to see Dr. Lawrence Lenke because of the intense pain I was experiencing in my back and down my legs. Seeing the x-rays of my spine, I was dumbfounded at the degree of curvature. The 91-degree protruding curve gave me trouble, as I was constantly irritating it by bumping against things. However, to my surprise, Dr. Lenke said that I had to have both hips replaced before the spinal surgery could be done.

My maximum height had been 5-feet 71???2-inches in the years of my youth. In my early 40’s I started noticing my shoulders and hips going in different directions, and I began to shrink — eventually reaching a low of 5-ft .1-in. prior to my spinal surgery.

As a result of the scoliosis my limitations had increased, as had the pain. For example:

  • Standing for even a short time became unbearable.
  • I could not enjoy a good walk because of the pain in my lower back.
  • I became increasingly bent over as time went on. My intestines were crowded between my rib cage and pelvis. My waistline was hidden under my breasts. I could only eat the smallest of portions, and then very slowly.
  • It was difficult extending my arms over my head to fix or cut my hair.
  • Because of my curvature I had to alter my clothes.
  • Sleep became a nightly struggle to get comfortable because of the pain.
  • The physical pain affected my mental focus and concentration. I learned first-hand that PAIN DRAINS THE BRAIN!!!

It is now two and a half years since my spinal surgery (posterior spinal fusion of thoracic vertebrae 2 to sacrum 1), which was preceded with bilateral hip replacement surgery. I now look and feel like a new person – 5-ft. 4-in. tall, physically healthy, and virtually without pain.

  • I can stand up for almost any length of time, allowing me to cook a meal without having to stop and rest. I can once again vacuum, do the house cleaning, ironing, and shopping.
  • I find walking such a delight! I usually get in two miles a day and do so outdoors in order to enjoy nature and photographic opportunities. On bad-weather days, the treadmill calls me to duty.
  • I now find eating comfortable – even pleasurable.
  • I can easily hold my arms over my head to wash, fix, or cut my hair.
  • I can wear normal clothing – no alterations needed!
  • I can get into comfortable positions for a good night’s sleep.
  • I am mentally more alert and enjoy the fact that pain no longer disrupts my concentration.

As a result of having had spinal surgery, I do not need to be in a care center having others taking care of me. Instead, I can now use my strength and new abilities to care for the homebound of our parish church. I can walk to their homes, visit with them, discern and attend to their needs. I am able to assist our deacon who has limited vision. I can help a friend who has post-polio and Parkinson’s with bedtime tasks in the evening when her energy level is particularly low, as well as wash and style her hair for her. I can help a mother who cares for her daughter who has MS, and cook meals for those coming home from the hospital. In these ways, my surgery to correct scoliosis has been a blessing not only to me, but also in the lives of many others. This gives me great joy!

I was a teacher in my younger years, and later my husband and I taught classes together. From him I learned care, compassion and courage throughout our married years. With dogged determination, he loved and lived life to the fullest, despite the limitations and challenges he faced every day with quadriplegia. Now that I am in my 70’s and healed from spinal reconstruction surgery, my calling to help others is being fulfilled with the new life, strength, and energy that I have been given.