A couple of years ago, I took my then thirteen year old daughter, Savanna, to the pediatrician to get a routine physical for swim team. Everything was just as I expected so I wasn’t paying close attention as our doctor examined her. Towards the end of her exam, Dr. Sampson told her to take off her shirt so she could check her back. Savanna was not exactly excited about this but she did it. As the doctor made notes, she told Savanna to bend over. I wasn’t really looking at her, but I saw her bend out of the corner of my eye and heard the pediatrician say, “No Savanna. Bend ALL the way over.” Still not looking, I heard, “Savanna! I need you to put your feet together…don’t bend your knees and bend STRAIGHT down!” At this point I looked up and before I could tell Savy to do what the doctor said, the doctor looked at me and said, "Mom, we have a problem. Come over here and look at this.I was shocked at what I saw! My daughter was crooked. She couldn't even bend straight over and there was a very OBVIOUS curve in her spine. In typical "Mommy" fashion, I felt guilty. I started firing off questions like, "Weren't you tested for scoliosis in 5th grade?!?" "How could I have missed this?!?" Even though, there's nothing I could've done...I felt guilty. Things started to make sense. Things like how she was always over to the side when she set up on the blocks to dive at swim meets...and why she couldn't dive straight out but plopped in the water and then had to swim twice as fast to catch up.We were sent to Scottish Rite Hospital for children in Dallas to see a specialist there. They took x-rays and told us that she had a 43 degree curve. It was too late for a brace, but too early to talk about surgery since they usually wait until there are signs in the x-rays that the patient is done growing before they operate. We went back the following year. She now had a 45 degree curve, but was essentially done growing. They scheduled us to come back a year later which was this past spring. The doctor told us that she was not required to have surgery. A 50 degree or higher curve means that surgery is absolutely necessary. He also told us that she had what is called "trunk shift" which means the top of her body (waist up) and the bottom were not in alignment. It had become very obvious just by looking at her, that there was a problem and she was very sensitive about it. In the end, her doctor at Scottish Rite Hospital recommended surgery and she made the choice to do it. Savanna was tired of being crooked...tired of not being able to dive off the blocks at swim meets like everyone else...tired of having to worry about what clothes she could wear to hide it...and tired of feeling different. We supported her decision and made an appointment for surgery.
Fast forward to last week...the week of her surgery. We got up early and drove for 45 minutes to get to the hospital by 7:45 AM on Thursday. Me, Savanna, and her dad spent ALL day seeing doctors, nurses, dieticians, pharmacists. She gave blood, took multiple x-rays, and participated in a study. Her emotions were all over the place, but for the most part...she did well. She was looking forward to getting "straightened out" and although no one sugar coated what she would go through...I knew she had no concept of what she was in for. The doctor decided to do the posterior surgery. There's less chance of infection when the organs don't have to be moved like they are in the anterior option, but that means the doctor has to move the big muscles of the back which causes a lot of pain during recovery. I worried about her recovery. I wondered how she would hold up emotionally.The surgery was successful and went exactly as planed. MOST kids are groggy...tired...and super sleepy after a 4 hour surgery when they are wheeled into the recovery area...not Savanna. She was trying to sit up and talked incessantly. She kept taking my hand and saying "Is this a dream?" I said, "No. You are all done, baby." She would say "I did it?!?!?!" I said, "Yes. You did!" It amazed everyone there...and for the next 2 days...she continued to amaze us. She was so determined to get better. She wanted to be taken off all the things that were keeping her in bed.
Sunday morning they took her off oxygen and took her epidural and catheter out. She was so excited...and then reality set in. Once she was no longer attached to the epidural, her pain had to be managed through pills...and it's not the same. She was accustomed to a constant flow of medication.Everyone has been amazed be Savy's strength and great attitude throughout this process. It's not because she never had any low times. Savanna had times where she cried, but they were few and far between. She also had times where she felt angry and wondered if her decision to have surgery was worth it. The thing is...every time this happened, it was short lived. She was always able to dig down and find strength that I didn't know she had. She still has a long recovery ahead. It's hard to readjust your whole body alignment and it's hard to build back the physical strength after being in bed. Savanna has learned that lying in bed and sleeping is not the way to recover. When she is hurting, she gets up and walks laps in our house...not because I tell her too either. It's always HER decision.Some people think that being strong means NEVER having a weak moment...never shedding a tear...never feeling afraid. I disagree. Being strong doesn't mean being perfect. It's not about being a robot that feels and shows no emotion. When life gets you down or pain clouds your judgement, we all have the ability to find strength and work through those emotions...IF we choose to.
I have been exhausted. It wasn't fun sleeping in a plastic fold out bed for 5 nights and being woken up every two hours. I missed working out and eating normal food, but I wouldn't have done it any other way. What I sacrificed was tiny compared to what my daughter has endured. Savanna has taught me so much over the past week. The last day we were in the hospital, we were walking laps around the floor and she was getting tired and hurting. She turned and looked at me with those big blue eyes and said, "Mom. I'm proud of myself! I think that if I can do this...I can do anything for the rest of my life!" I smiled and said, "Yes you can Savanna! I'm proud of you too!Savanna found her strong. Have you found yours?