I was thirteen years
old when I was diagnosed with Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis. This is
a condition where the spine is curved. Mine was like the letter *S*, and
since it was about 38 degrees, I had to wear a scoliosis jacket. Not exactly
the kind of fashion jacket you'd be interested in buying. Scoliosis might
sound to you like a minor medical condition. That's what I thought
until everyone started treating me differently. The jacket was uncomfortable
and hard to get used to, too, though I rarely complained about it...I figured
I had no choice.
What a way to start
People treated me either
like I was deformed or like I was going
to break. The older kids would walk up to me and knock on my brace (the
"jacket"). Some of them would crack jokes about it, too, and I tried not
to let them bother me. They did, though, and it was hard to laugh along
when I felt like crying. I didn't like being the object of such attention.
Even though I was feeling
pretty alone and certainly different, I kept up with sports. I ran
cross country in the brace. It was my third year on the team and I was
a varsity runner. I loved running, but the brace rubbed under my arms and
caused burns. It also restricted my breathing. All this made me even MORE
determined to do it, though!
Somehow I survived
that season and moved on to play basketball. Basketball was my first love
in the athletic world. I had played
since I was five, joining the varsity team by the eighth grade. Now I was
determined to play with the brace.
Some of the players complained, but I made it through another season.
Once the winter turned
to Spring, I played softball, pitching and playing first base. Batting
in the brace was hard because I lacked mobility, but I managed to make
the all conference team anyway.
I don't think I will
ever forget the date of March 17, 1994... liberation day. I was freed from
the brace after what seemed like an eternity (when in reality it was only
a year and eleven days). It felt good to be one of the "normal" kids again.
Bad news! My happiness
was short lived ... I discovered that even though *I* had stopped growing,
my curve had not and was now at 56 degrees. The doctor explained that I
would need surgery ... a rod and some hooks on my spine to straighten it.
The plan was to fuse the spine solid by using bone chips scraped off of
my pelvis. Before surgery, I started having nasty symptoms from pinched
nerves in my back. My leg started dragging and my left arm was getting
weak. Doesn't seem like I'd be able to run, but I did! I started practicing
because it kind of gave me a sense of security to look forward to ameet.
Well the fateful day
came, and I wasn't too nervous because I didn't know what to expect. I
just remember being wheeled into the O.R. and then waking up in I.C.U.
with a bunch of people standing over me calling my name. My recovery was
tough, with lots of pain, but after a couple months I began to feel better
and I returned to school.
Basketball season once
again, and I learned that my life would never be the same. After
ten straight seasons of basketball I finally had to sit one out. The part
that hurt the worse was seeing someone else dressed
out in my jersey. I wanted to play more than anything that year.But I couldn't...
it felt like I was defeated. Later on I made an attempt to return but my
efforts were futile. Too much pain! So I hung up the basketball jersey
for good and had to be content with my memories.
By the time my
senior school year rolled around, I considered
myself "normal" once again. I was captain of the girls cross-country
team. I went on trips with friends, I went to parties, and I even started
running again on a regular basis. Believe me, it felt great!
Unfortunately, my surgical
career was not over, and I had to have another operation right before high
school graduation. I was getting to be a pro! After graduation, I moved
in with my sister, and was not at all happy to learn that a THIRD operation
was necessary. I was so sick of being sick all the time.
As you know by now,
I'm pretty resilient, and though I am still anemic, and I am still on an
antibiotic, I'm ready to get on with my life. The guy I am dating now is
incredible, and frankly, I don't think I could have made it through the
fall semester in college without him.
Now I see things differently.
So many things have changed since I first started
to deal with this. I am a lot stronger now as a person. I realize I have
limitations. I have learned to deal with life's unexpected blows. Sometimes
I find myself wondering what could have been. But most of the time I believe
that it's not what could have been or what should have been. Life is what
And sometimes, just
sometimes, I can hear the crowd roar!
Rebecca Anne Wierzbic