a lateral curvature of the spine...

i have scoliosis.
a lateral curvature of the spine. 
i have had this since birth. 

when i was about 12 years old, my mom took me in for a physical. 
mind you, that was a rare occasion. 
we only went to the doctor if we were ill beyond repair. 
this was one of those times.

I was having a lot of hip and low back pain.
my mom thought it was growing pains.
when it didn't subside, she finally broke down and off we went.

i remember the doctor practically screaming at my mom
for waiting so long.
and that i had scoliosis. 
i had no idea what that was of course, 
or what we were supposed to do about it. 

after my diagnosis, things moved rather quickly.
my mom made some appointments, and we traveled to NYC
to see a back specialist. Dr. Graham.
after some X-rays and review of my case, we were
given two options: a back brace or surgery.

the surgery option seemed severe given the fact
that my curvature was only 23 degrees. 
after surgery i would need to spend 9 months in a body cast!
so we chose the brace. 

the specialist sent us right over to the 'lab.'
yes, we literally went from his office to the next building down, 
where they would "fit" me for the brace. 

i was 12. no one, not even the doctor,
prepared me for what i had to go through next.

i was told to go behind this wall of curtains and take off my clothes. 
my mother was not allowed to come with me. 
she didn't even insist. she just blindly said ok. 
as i waited for someone to come in, i shivered uncontrollably. 
scared to death.
almost in tears. 

finally, after some unknown amount of time, 
a Chinese man came in with a piece of gauze
and some plaster of paris in a bucket. 
what followed was for me very humiliating and 
extremely horrifying.

this man, whom i had never met, wrapped my body 
from my neck to just below my hips with the gauze,
and then proceeded to slather my body with the wet plaster.
never saying a word. never preparing me for what was to come. 
i was 12. i had never had a strange man's hands on me.

i was just horrified. 
i couldn't contain my tears any longer. 
i just cried and cried.
he mumbled something which i didn't understand.
and left. 
i stood there alone, shaking and crying. 
hoping my mother would come get me. 
she didn't. 
i stood there as the plaster started to harden on my body.
cold. alone. afraid. 

i thought i might pass out. 

then the man came back with a woman and 
they cut the plaster cast off of me. 
leaving me exposed once again. 

i was given a wet face cloth and told to wipe myself off and get dressed.
and still my mother didn't come. 

we left with another appointment to come back 
the following week to pick up the brace.
once again, i had to go behind those curtains. 
terrified, i grabbed my mother's hand.
this time, she was allowed to come with me. 

i had to try on the brace. 
this time i was allowed to keep my underwear and t-shirt on.
they instructed both my mother and i how to don and doff the brace. 
how to tighten it and so on.
i had to wear it for 23 hours a day for the first year. 

i left that day wearing the brace. we had driven there in my father's van.
the back of his van was not todays' average mini van.
there were no real seats, 
only benches along the sides with a table in the middle.
when i went to sit down, the brace unexpectedly came up and hit my throat/chin.
i gagged and started crying again. 
i don't remember for how long. 
and i don't remember my mother consoling me in any way. 
all in all, a terribly horrifying experience. 
i eventually learned how to sit properly. 
and i could never sit on a soft surface with my brace on.

i never told anyone of my experience behind the curtain.
not in detail anyway.
and i hadn't expected to write about it today.

originally, this post was about the spine of a 50 year old.
i guess the 12 year old in me had more to say.


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