When I look back, I was a typical High School student. I had parents who worked paycheck to paycheck to support me, and my four siblings. My mother was a bank teller, and my father ran his own plumbing business. They were always working many hours so they never really had time to say anything other than “Hi” and “Bye” each day. I went to school every day, and socialized with the small group of friends that I had at the time. A small group of friends was enough because I had something many people don’t have, an identical twin sister. She was my best friend in High School, and we relied on each other like an elephant relies on its trunk. We told each other just about everything. We didn’t always experience back pain, it started when we hit puberty. We began having breathing issues and our stance was a bit off. One arm began to hang lower than the other arm, my mother noticed once while we were at the beach and asked why I was standing “that way”. I didn’t know what “that way” meant because it was normal to me and my body, but she didn’t ask anymore questions after I shrugged her question off. My sister and I never told anyone in the family about our struggles because we believed that it was all due to puberty and that it soon would pass (puberty for us was a nightmare).
Being in the 9th grade was rough enough, and fitting in wasn’t our strength. My sister and I were quiet girls and we kept to ourselves a lot. My sister and I were tomboys and we loved to play in the mud (that’s what happens when you grow up with older brothers). One day at school I was playing a football game with some of the High School boys and one boy hit me too hard in the ribcage area and I went down like a sack of potatoes. I attempted to get back up on my feet, but no luck. I couldn’t breath, and the nurse had my mother take me to the emergency room. The nurse told my parents it may have been an onset of asthma, and my father was a frequent smoker so my mother didn’t dismiss the idea of asthma.
Six hours passed in the hospital. Blood test, breathing test, allergy test, EKG, and a chest x-ray were all done to figure out why this seemingly healthy 13 year old girl was breathing like she had been smoking for 50 years. The doctor ordered another x-ray for my back. A nurse took the x-ray of my back and soon I was back with my mother who was waiting for me in my hospital room. It was an hour or so before we heard a knock knock on the door and the doctor walked towards my mother and I and opened a manila folder in her hands and showed us an x-ray of my spine. My spine was the shape of an S. It was the first time I heard the term “Scoliosis”. It was a weird word, a word I’ve never heard before but it defined me and I had to listen closely as the doctor explained the extent of my problems. My rib cage was crushing my organs, and she ordered us to see a spine specialist immediately to begin the process of getting emergency surgery for my spine to avoid any more damage to my internal organs.
Unfortunately, my twin sister was also diagnosed with scoliosis and the curvature of her spine was as severe as mine. She admitted that she had trouble breathing at times, but never enough to think her spine was the shape of an S. My mother and father were handling the situation a lot smoother than I expected. Typically, they didn’t like to be removed from their comfort zone but something must have changed when they realized my sister and I were fighting for our lives. After a couple weeks of specialist visits, and dozens of photo shoots of our S shaped spine’s, we were set to have our scoliosis surgeries at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore by an Orthopedic Surgeon. My twin sister and I had a long road ahead of us, but we were ready to take on any obstacle that came our way.
John Hopkins Hospital contact information and directions below!