As we move into week 5 post op I have had some time to reflect a little on our Scoliosis journey and I wanted to share what I feel we have learned.
When Chris was first diagnosed in August 2013 I was horrified by the thought of surgery and scared myself silly looking on the internet to find out about corrective surgery. I vowed that we would do everything in our power to prevent Chris having to go through that and I really believed that Schroth therapy (the specialised form of physiotherapy for Scoliosis) could prevent curve progression.
In fact, I think I pretty much wore blinkers for the first year – pushing Chris to do his exercises twice a day, encouraging him by saying that doing the exercises would hopefully keep his curve under control. Fortunately neither Steve nor I ever told Chris that the exercises would definitely definitely stop curve progression – we always focused on the fact that they would help balance and strengthen his muscles while he was growing – which hopefully would hold his curve where it was.
Ultimately, his curve did progress and it progressed fast – something that came as a hell of a shock to us all. But at no point did I feel we had failed. We had done our very best to support Chris and as time went on it became clear to us that the best thing that we could do for him was to agree to the corrective spinal surgery.
I really struggled to come to terms with it though as it brought back memories of my own upsetting experience of surgery as a five year old child – and hospitals were very different in the way they looked after children then. I knew Chris would be well looked after and he was also old enough to understand everything himself – indeed the decision to go ahead with the surgery was made by Chris with our support.
And sitting here now, with Chris tall and straight and growing in strength every day, I find myself thinking ‘thank God for the corrective surgery’ that I was so desperate to avoid. We are very lucky that we have these incredible surgeons doing what they do to help children like Chris. Without surgery his spine would have continued to curve with each successive growth spurt leaving him with a very twisted back and potential longer-term health problems. I know that no parent wants their child to go through major surgery, but if it is their best option then it should be embraced as the life changing, and I believe for Chris, life enhancing, option that it is.
Finally I want to share what we have learned about exercise and physiotherapy for Scoliosis – it may not prevent curve progression, but it will help your child’s spine to be flexible and their back muscles to be strong. This makes the surgeons work a little easier because it is simpler to move and re-position a flexible spine than one that is stiff. And having strong back muscles that are used to being stretched makes recovery much easier for the child. The surgery moves, stretches and fixes their muscles into new positions and this is what causes a lot of the post operative pain. If the muscles are flexible they accept their new positions more easily and there is less pain and discomfort for your child.
Chris has recovered at remarkable speed and I think Steve and I can take some small amount of credit for that, thanks to the exercises and stretches we made Chris do in the months leading up to surgery!