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I developed idiopathic lumbar scoliosis in my 30's. I am 61 now. I used to be very active: full time job, played in 2 tennis leagues/week, walked miles. Then gradually, arthritis began settling into my lumbar spine. I eventually had to give up my beloved tennis as I could no longer lunge for the ball. It was the weirdest thing...My brain told my body what to do, but the body just couldn't obey! In my 40's, the low back pain got more and more annoying. Tylenol wasn't cutting it, but I did find relief with Aleve. Not sure why, but there was a big difference. Anyway, after a while, that didn't work either. I was travelling like crazy for my job, and there were times that after airplane rides, I was in so much pain that it took me a few minutes after standing to be able to take steps to deplane. I finally decided to go see a chiropractor to see if spinal decompression would help. The chiro sent me to get an MRI after hearing my symptoms. I remember walking into his office after the MRI results came in: there were films up on the light board, and I remember seeing them and thinking to myself, "Damn, that poor soul has one messed up back. Thank God that's not me". Well....you know where this is going....he told me that those were MY films. I was shocked! Thankfully, the chiro doc told me he wouldn't touch me and told me to see a specialist.
Fast forward to the first x-ray with a scoliosis specialist: They xrayed and measured my height. I have always been 5'10" tall my entire adult life. They told me I was 5'9" that day. My curve was 30 degrees. It was a C curve. There was considerable arthritis. They told me that I should just come back every year or so to check in. All this time, I was able to continue walking...usually 3 miles per day. Year by year, I would return (ended up changing docs because the first guy had zero bedside manner) to check in on my curve progression. By the time I was in my 50's, I had gotten shorter, the curve had gotten bigger, but other symptoms started showing up: sciatica (ugh!!!), lost feeling in 2 toes, and that ever-present pain would rarely go away. My walking had to be cut down to 1.5 miles, then eventually, I could barely walk a mile. By my late 50's, my curve had increased to 43 degrees, numbness had set in in my toes, and people really began noticing I was crooked. My height was down to 5'8". I had talked to my doctor, and we both knew surgery was inevitable. Thankfully, I had taken up yoga which gave me tons of relief. I sincerely believe that the yoga prepared me in the best possible way for the surgery. It kept me flexible and stretched out the muscles that always seemed to be hurting.
Well, last August (2018), I took the plunge. The night before my surgery, I measured just a hair under 5'7". I was scared to death to have the surgery. There were so many things wrong in my spine that not having surgery was not an option. I would have ended up in a wheelchair for sure. So I sucked it up and did it. I had several completely collapsed discs, I had spondylolisthesis where the vertebrae slip forward over one another, spurs, arthritis, you name it.
The surgery was called a 360 meaning they go in through your lower tummy to insert the cages (ALIF), then flip you over and do the curve correction. The c curve had caused my upper spine to compensate, so I ended up with another curve in the thoracic region. So the cages, rods and screws went in, and 92 staples later, I was in recovery. I will spare you the details of my ICU experience. But I had some severe reactions to the drugs they gave me....I have no memory of pulling out my IVs (in my hand and yes, I even yanked out the main line in my neck!!!). Once they got the meds straightened out, I started recovering. Spent 5 days in the hospital, then was moved to an In-patient rehab facility. That was a God-send. They got me up, walking and rehabbing immediately. Went home 10 days later.
Once home, I had several episodes of tears intermittently over the next few weeks. They gradually tapered off. It was a BIG surgery and the recovery was slow. The biggest thing that shocked me is that I am one of the few people who can feel the hardware inside my body. I don't mean I can feel it from the skin side, I mean I am extremely aware of the instrumentation inside me on my spine. I thought everyone felt it until I spoke with another woman who had the same surgery (exactly) and she had no idea what I was talking about...she said she doesn't feel a thing....and she was 4 weeks behind me in her surgery! I don't feel it in the lumbar area, I only feel it on the thoracic area. It feels like I have a train track welded to my spine. I am used to it now, but the feeling has not gone away. I really feel it when I turn over in bed, lift something heavy, etc. Why me?
I was off from work for 11 weeks, then returned. I work in a retail store, full time, and am on my feet all day.I started slowly, but can now do everything: I lift boxes, lift products, etc. I honestly believe that going back to that job was a blessing as it is definitely a lot of exercise for my back. My back has never hurt since the surgery!!!
So now I am almost 9 months post op. I still have nerves healing in my legs, especially my buttocks and thighs. I don't walk very well just yet, but I get better every day. I feel like I must look like Bigfoot when I walk....not as graceful as before, but I am working on it!
OH..almost forgot to tell y'all….I got 2.5" back! I'm back to almost 5'10" again!!
All in all, I am happy I had the surgery. I plan on updating this monthly as the healing for my ordeal can take up to 18 months. I will be thrilled if I can pick up tennis and yoga again! I really miss my yoga, but I am not quite ready for that.
I hope my story helps someone and gives you the courage to go for it!