My name is Ashley. I am fourteen years old and I had my thoracic spine fused.
When I was eight years old I had a physical with my doctor. Since scoliosis ran in my family, she had me bend over so she could see my back and spine. My doctor immediately told my mom that my spine looked like the spine of someone with scoliosis. I didn't fully understand what that meant so, when I got home, I went to my room and looked at my back.
For the first time I noticed that my back looked different. Later that year, in early September doctors confirmed that I had scoliosis. My curve was 28 degrees in my thoracic spine but quite small everywhere else. I had three MRIs to look at my entire spine. As I got older, my curve continued to grow. I became more and more self conscious of my curve. It made me stand slightly lopsided and you could see it at swim meets in my swimsuit.
When I was twelve I started dancing and was quite self conscious of my curve because of the costumes that I wore and clothes that I went to dance in. My curve didn't stop me from doing anything in dance, but it often hurt when I was in my acrobatics classes. From the time I was diagnosed at eight until my surgery five years later, I wore a back brace. I wore it to mostly to sleep and some during the day, though not much.
I met Dr. Good in 2012 for a second opinion about wearing a brace. My curve was now 34 degrees. I got fitted for a new brace and had a goal of wearing it practically all day. A brace is meant to keep the curve where it is and not let it get worse. About a month after turning thirteen I went to see Dr. Good for a checkup on my back. In the four months since I'd seen him last my thoracic curve continued to grow to a 40 degree curve. I could also tell my back was changing. It was now big enough to need surgery. If I didn’t have surgery, the curve would just get worse and could even cause health problems. Sometimes this happens in scoliosis even with a brace. I was scheduled to have surgery on June 24, 2014 and I had the majority of my thoracic spine fused.
Now I am no longer self conscious of my back and I rarely notice that the screws are there. The screws are not something that I am consciously aware of. Of course I know that the screws are there, but so long as I am not trying to pull my foot over my head, I never notice the screws. My recovery took the entire summer. Even though it was painful, it was definitely worth it! I couldn’t bend, lift or twist for 6 months after surgery so my fusion could heal.
My experience at Virginia Spine Institute was so amazing! I love the staff here! I have been to multiple spine doctors and Dr. Good is by far the kindest and most understanding, which really helps me be comfortable there. Dr. Good was also the first spine doctor I had who actually spoke to me, as opposed to just my parents. A PA whom I have come to personally know and love at Virginia Spine Institute is Blair. I love Blair so much, she was really reassuring to me during recovery and before surgery. Blair gave me great advice about my back and is one of the nicest people I've met. I have loved coming to Virginia Spine Institute so much and I am so glad that I didn't get my surgery anywhere else!
For others with scoliosis I would suggest finding a good way to hold your curve in place with a brace. If you have back pain like I did, try dance or yoga because both really helped to decrease my pain. If you need surgery, my advice is to trust your surgeon and not to worry too much. I know from experience that's easier said than done. Also, try to be active before surgery because it will help you recover more quickly. When I was 1 year out from my surgery I was pain-free and even back to dancing full-time!
Thank you to my team!
- Dr. Good - Spinal Specialist