Scoliosis Surgery - Part 1

I was born with scoliosis, which is a curvature of the spine, and kyphosis, essentially, hunchback. The curves can vary from mild to severe, and my progressive curve was more on the severe side, progressing throughout my childhood and adolescence and through adulthood. In the past 18 months, the pain became so severe that I was unable to work for periods of time, unable to sit in chairs and was prescribed a pain management program of some pretty intense painkillers. My health took a turn for the worse, despite my healthy and active lifestyle, I couldn't escape the pain and continual deterioration of my spine. I made the decision to correct the severe scoliosis - a decision I had been avoiding for years - due to fear and also the requirement of a recovery time between 3-12 months (3 month minimum for the bone to fuse). See my before and after transformation at the bottom of the page! 

Having recently (in the past year) decided that my deteriorating health was causing me to lack the quality of life that everyone deserves, I opted for surgical correction - spinal curvature straightening (scoliosis) surgery - an intense procedure (my operation took 11 hours) that uses rods, hooks and screws to quite literally realign the spine. Check out this simulation on Youtube to see exactly what they did.

Leading up to surgery, I was actually overseas with Simon who whisked me off to Singapore and Malaysia for my birthday (and a little pre-surgery adventure!), knowing that I would be going a little stir-crazy in the hospital. Luckily, this provided quite the distraction from my impeding doomsday. When we arrived back home to Sydney, we basically slept for one day and hung out around the beaches spending as much time as possible with my cat and mates. The night before surgery, one of my besties, Corinne came over to spend the night (as well as Simon of course) and take me to the hospital at 6AM. Still able to avoid thinking about the inevitable, I robotically packed my bags full of activewear, full bottomed undies (that I purchased the night before, realising I only owned g-strings and nurses probably wouldn't appreciate that!) and toiletries, chucked on an unmemorable movie on Netflix with Si in bed and crashed out before 12.

In the morning, we woke and headed to the hospital, where we were directed to admissions and they put me in a gown and into a hospital bed and quickly inserted the first cannular. Finally the reality hit me as hard as a ton of bricks and I burst into tears. Si and Corinne comforted me while we waited for them to return. Finally the anaesthetic nurse arrived and told them to head off; we said our goodbyes tearfully and the nurse wheeled me off to the anaesthetic bay - which I kind of think is basically like the theatre waiting room. My surgeon, Dr Ball, came into the room with the anaesthesiologist, Anthony, and said hello and some comforting words, but before I knew it I was out cold.

The next thing I remember is after the surgery was in ICU. I must have accumulated a ton of phlegm in my lungs and when they were trying to get me to cough or something with the breathing tube while they were removing it, I couldn't breathe and was weakly trying to tell them to take it out. When they finally made sense of my frail hand gestures and it came out I remember very productively coughing and breathing deeply, once again feeling safe. It was one of those moments like when you are mega drunk and something serious is going on and you seem to sober up immediately. I was aware because I couldn't breathe but before that specific moment and after I felt safe again, I remember nothing. It's like August 15th didn't even exist for me this year. Just darkness; nothingness.

It felt like no time had passed at all. I had triple vision and was hallucinating for a week straight thanks to the ketamine infusion and cocktail of painkillers. Sometimes I would wake in the middle of the night screaming and crying in agony and the nurses would rush to me and try to figure out what to do next. There are so many things that happened, minutes, moments, that I remember that I dare not put on the Internet. Let's leave it at that that week was the most excruciating and terrifying week of my entire life.

I'm SO incredibly lucky that my friends organised to see me every day. Even though I barely remember, I can remember them being there, and that meant so much to me. They brought me donuts, teeth floss, trashy mags, clothes, snacks, shampoo and conditioner.. everything. And bless Si who has been by my side nonstop, pretty much every night, including a date night we organised with some UberEats tacos from a Mexican place in Crows Nest. It was a lovely break from hospital food. He has also dropped by my house regularly to check on Andy the cat, pick up items from home, and run my car around the block, as it hasn't been run since before we left for overseas. Amazing man.

My first steps felt impossible, like my feet were 50kg weights. I could barely lift them high enough to shuffle a few steps down the hallway, using a frame for support. Gradually, it became easier, and easier, until eventually I wasn't using the frame at all and making rounds around the ward without my physio supervising. It was amazing how after the first 10 days, my progress seemed to skyrocket. Every day I got a little stronger, could push it a little further - by the end of my stay at NSP I was even allowed to take the elevator to the ground floor and take myself out the front of the hospital to breathe in the fresh air. I don't think I have ever been cooped up anywhere for longer than a day or two, so 10 days was absolutely record-breaking and definitely a record I have no intention of ever breaking!

Soon enough the staples came out (25 at a time, per day), I was weaned off the ketamine, and I was walking and exercising on my own. "Exercising" being a far cry from my former workout routines, but over the past year I have learned to be kind and understanding to my body and this certainly came in handy. Often instead of giving in to the urge to "do something" I would find a healing mediation on Youtube and practice guided mediation to heal my body and reduce pain - which worked phenomenally well.

After two weeks in the hospital, I was cleared to head off to another hospital in which I would properly begin the rehabilitation process. NSP organised patient transport for that day and a bed for me at the new hospital and off I go. Part II coming soon..

Please feel free to leave comments and questions - I would love to hear from anyone and everyone!

After surgery (left) and before surgery (right). Gained a few inches now!

After surgery (left) and before surgery (right). Gained a few inches now!