II Corinthians 12:9-10

"And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities... for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong."
II Corinthians 12:9-10

More Scoliosis Stories

The longer this blog exists, the more opportunities arise for me to meet other people and hear their inspirational stories. So I want to give you the chance to see how others have seen great results from scoliosis treatment and receive insight from some different perspectives.

Our first story is about Marc Hajjar. Marc holds a BA from Washington University in St. Louis and is currently pursuing two MA degrees at Sotheby's Institute and New York University in the arts. Marc had his correction surgery in June of 2012 and is recovering well thanks to the support of his friends and family. He lives in New York, NY.


The Architecture of My Body
-Marc Hajjar

It took me ten years to make a decision. This decision was not your average one; I had to decide if I wanted to undergo major spinal surgery.

When I was thirteen, I was diagnosed with severe scoliosis. My spine made two large curves at it snaked from the small of my back to my neck. The first spine specialist I saw was adamant about immediate surgery. As he described the particulars of surgically straightening my spine, my teenage self became more and more frightened.

A few weeks after that visit, I was handed a surgery date that was several months away. Upon my second visit with the doctor, he revealed to me that my scoliosis was stable; the curvatures had not gotten worse. When I heard this, I decided that surgery, at that time, was not going to happen.

Nine years later I had just graduated from college. It become obvious that I would have to get my scoliosis corrected. While I was lucky not to have noticeable physical deformities, the symptoms of a crooked spine were taking their toll on me.

What I had thought to be asthma was actually decreased lung function caused by a mangled rib cage. My compressed ribs were working at 60% capacity. Breathing was impossible without an inhaler. Additionally, I had developed acid reflux. As my ribcage gradually caved inward, it had distorted the muscle connecting my esophagus and stomach. Those two conditions were just the most prominent. Altered balance, muscle pains, and feelings of constriction were also daily challenges.

As my first year of graduate school came to a close, my back increasingly bothered me. Breathing at night became difficult, my back constantly ached, and I was incredibly self-conscious of my physical appearance. The two large humps on my back were waves in my spine’s wake. I decided to see another surgeon and get his opinion.

The second surgeon, Dr. M, was located on Manhattan’s wealthy Upper East Side and specialized in adult scoliosis cases. When I first met him, he exclaimed, “I love adult scoliosis patients!” Hearing this definitely startled me, but also put me at ease. Compared to the first surgeon I saw, Dr. M was much less of an alarmist. He assured me that I did not have a “special” case and my spine could be completely straightened.

After the appointment, I heavily leaned towards getting the surgery. The procedure would be five to six hours long and would involve my doctor straightening my spine, screwing two titanium rods to the vertebrae, and then fusing my vertebrae together with donor bone. I would be out of commission for several weeks post-operation and would need constant inspection. Despite the nature of the surgery and the recovery, I decided that long-term gain trumped short-term pain.

I notified my school, job, and friends of the large event that was in my future and, the more I discussed this, the more excited I became. I would finally be straight. With a surgery date of June 1st, I prepared myself for a busy summer of inactivity.

I awoke at 5 a.m. on June 1st. My mother and father drove me to the hospital. They were just as nervous as I was. It was later revealed to me that my parents had hoped that I would one day get the surgery; they feared that my curvilinear spine would prevent me from leading a normal adult life. At the hospital, at least five different nurses asked me what type of surgery I was getting, when my last meal was, how much I weighed, and a slew of other questions. As the questions kept coming, the gravity of the surgery finally set in.

A tiny female nurse walked with me to the operating room where I was hooked up to more machines than I could imagine. Electrodes that would monitor my heart rate, nervous system, blood pressure, along with tubes that would deliver my anesthesia dangled from my limbs and torso, were mounted to me. Before I went under, I tried to lighten the mood by conversing with my anesthesiologist. Since it was a Friday, I asked him about his weekend plans. He replied, “Oh, I’m not doing anything special.” He paused, then continued, “…but I’ll be doing more than you will.” Within minutes, I was unconscious.

The anesthesia wore off as I was wheeled around the hospital over six hours after I first lost consciousness. A kind nurse broke hospital protocol and gave me apple juice (a big taboo since I was on a clear liquid diet for twenty four hours post-surgery) as they shuffled me from room to room. I floated in and out of consciousness for the rest of the day.

June 2nd and 3rd were possibly two of the most difficult days I have ever lived through. Weak, nauseous, and in a great deal of pain, I silently writhed in my hospital bed. My lack of strength and erratic blood pressure caught the attention of the nurses and doctors and they soon gave me a blood transfusion. With every drop of blood that entered my body through the IV, I regained energy and color. Who knew that such little blood could go so far.            

Physical therapists taught me how to walk, go up stairs, sit, and stand again.  When I took those first steps, I felt like a puppet. I didn’t know how I was standing so erect without having strings suspending me. The titanium rods in my body cantilevered me upright as I walked like a toddler down the hallways of the hospital. When I was discharged on June 6th, I had regained my walking ability but still teetered when I stood for too long. Those rods and screws are now the scaffolding that supports my new, towering torso. I had grown 1 ½ inches.



As the days and weeks went by, I regained more of my energy and was able to stand for longer lengths of time. My doctors are confident that I will make a full recovery. Even though a second, but much smaller surgery is in my future, I do not regret making this decision. It has already improved my life. I haven’t touched my inhaler or heartburn medicine since being discharged.

While my back is still stiff, I feel so much better than when I left the hospital. The recovery was difficult, but it was not impossible. For once, I am structurally sound. 

 



If you are interested in sharing your story, feel free to email me at watchyourback09@gmail.com.

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting, I'm having scoliosis surgery next February and I'm so nervous! x

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    1. Let me know if you have any questions, and I hope it is a successful surgery for you!

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