Hi all! (essay to follow!)
My name is Hayley- I'm 21 years old with an 88 degree right thoracic curvature and a 60+ degree left lumbar compensatory curve. I'm heading in for surgery on Monday- feeling extremely nervous, but prepared. I was actually scheduled for this past Wednesday- but was told in the hospital bed, already in my gown, that I had been rescheduled! Needless to say my nerves were pretty shot.
I've been exercising with foam rollers for about six months to limber up my spine and eating lots of protein and calcium-rich foods. I'm not sure if these measures help at all, but they make me feel more in control.
I'll be having the surgery at Baylor Plano in Texas with Dr. Michael O'Brien. Originally he had planned to fuse T2-T12, but at my pre-op informed me that the fusion might need to be extended to L2 due to the magnitude of the compensatory curve. Naive internet-researcher that I am, I asked if it would be at all possible to go back to T12 and try to work out my lumbar curve on my own. He said compensatory curves take a while to work themselves out, but I'm willing to put in the work over the next year if it's possible. They all seem very understanding about mobility concerns, and I know with a curve my size I can't really be too picky. It'll be the doc's call in the end. He also recommends a thoracoplasty, which I feel I might as well get since I'll already be laid up. He says I have some of the most significant rib rotation he's seen, and it's unlikely the fusion will be able to correct it fully. Again- very scared about the rib pain- I've never even broken a bone!
I shouldn't have let it get this bad, but I've been ridiculously afraid of the surgery ever since I was told I needed it at 15 for my then-60 degree curve. Long story short I burst into tears and didn't go back for six years! I really wish now that I had just gone for it when I could have healed much faster, but hindsight is 20/20.
I'm not in much pain (just a bit after long days), but my self-esteem is low and the doctors guarantee the curve will be over 100 degrees within 5 years. The thing that bothers me most appearance-wise is my left side, which caves in significantly. I also have some shortness of breath, which is more worrying than any cosmetic concerns. I remember twisting once and hearing my lungs wheeze horribly, which was quite frightening.
My sister and I were thinking of doing a long-term experiment. She has scoliosis too (though not as bad as mine) but she's vehemently opposed to surgery. Since we're physically so similar we're going to compare our musculoskeletal well-being throughout the years and document it for people who want to deduce long term outcomes of fusion vs. exercise.
I still get that "what if?" feeling, that if I wait a little longer they'll come out with something revolutionary, or someone will come up with an awesome set of exercises for even the largest curves. Fusion seems to be my best bet right now though, and at some point you just have to bite the bullet and make the decision.
I did have a few questions about the pain for those who have gone through it:
Afterwards, in the hospital, is the fact that you're in pain all you can think about? Would I be able to watch some TV or play a game of cards, or am I going to be too sore for distractions?
Would I be able to do some light work on the computer after a few weeks? Or am I just going to want to lie there like a vegetable?
If you never take painkillers, will you find them significantly more helpful in the hospital, or is it about the same no matter what?
Anyway, it's great to be able to talk to others about this, and I hope to post a few updates. I've been following some of your experiences here and they've really helped me in making the decision and knowing what to expect during recovery.