Chris has recently turned 18 and I thought it was a good time to give an update on how he has progressed since his surgery in December 2014. He is now 6 foot tall with broad, straight shoulders. He has no pain from his back but occasionally his neck feels stiff where the vertebrae were fused to the rods at the top of his spine.
He is a completely normal (!) teenager and enjoys life to the full. He has worked a weekend job at a garden centre for the last two years and this has been great for developing his shoulders and arms due to all the lifting and carrying required. He has also learnt a valuable skill – how to be charming even when someone is being rude to you!
He has just completed his A levels and is now on a gap year while he decides what it is that he wants to do.
For us Scoliosis is now forgotten and rarely spoken of. Chris had a final follow-up with Dr Conlan in February 2017 and we were told his file was now ‘closed’ with no need for further consultations unless he experiences any problems in the future. That was an amazing day for all of us but most of all for Chris who has taken it all in his stride and remained positive and lovely throughout.
I hope this positive update helps those of you who are coping with Scoliosis now and may worry about the future.
My hunch was right and Chris has just completed a full week of school. He is excused from PE but other than that it is his normal timetable of lessons and he’s been absolutely…FINE!!
The only exception to his normal routine is that I have driven him to and from the bus stop every day as the walk to the bus is about a mile and he didn’t want to do that yet. But I don’t think it will be long before he can try that.
His teachers have all been very welcoming and treated him just the same as the other kids in his class so that he doesn’t feel any different to them. And really he’s not any different now, he just has to be careful not to get too tired otherwise his back and shoulders start to ache.
His scar is looking really good now and I have started putting Bio Oil on it every day to try and help the redness to fade but it is a very flat and thin line down his spine. Once the colour fades I really don’t think people are going to notice it.
So, we are now 7 weeks post op and he’s back in school and enjoying a normal school day. It seems amazing how fast he has recovered and how relatively easy it has been for him. He has never complained and is just as chilled and happy as he ever was. I also feel very different these days and can’t help but smile when I look at him! We go back to Cambridge in a week to see Mr Conlan and I think he will be delighted with how well Chris is doing. We also see the physiotherapist who will give Chris an exercise plan to ‘fine tune’ his posture and get him really tall and completely straight.
Today has been strange day. Chris is at school this morning and taking his Mandarin test and I am at home packing. But packing to go to hospital is very different to packing for a holiday and I don’t know what to take with me, or what Chris would like to have with him. I know what he will “need” – the hospital has given me a list – but what else would be good to take?
I want to take some things from home to put in his room at hospital to make it feel more ‘homely’ and less ‘clinical’. I have printed out some photos of Chris with his football team and with our mad but lovely dog and put them into photo frames. I have also packed DVD’s, a couple of games (Domino’s, Uno) and some presents from his brother and me and Steve.
I’ve also packed some healthy fruit and less healthy cookies for when he feels like eating again after the surgery.
We have booked a hotel near the hospital and Steve will sleep there while I stay at the hospital with Chris. So, we have a variety of bags packed and I have taken a variety of vest tops and cardigans as it’s always hot in hospitals. I’ve also taken a pile of books and magazines to read.
Chris is going to go to Costa with some friends after school to have a ‘farewell and good luck’ hot choc and cookies. I will pick him up after that and we plan to eat here with Anthony and then hit the road about 7pm to hopefully arrive at the hotel around 9-9.30pm.
Chris is doing Mandarin GCSE and will be absent from school when his class take their speaking test. The school have kindly arranged for him to sit this test before he has his surgery so this week he is working hard on his revision. He has to prepare answers to 14 questions and then learn his responses so that he can ‘have a conversation’ with his Chinese teacher.
He also has to prepare and learn a statement about himself and his school. This will also be spoken to his teacher. So, my job for the next couple of nights is to test him…not easy as I don’t speak a word of Chinese! But I am learning how to say some of the key words and can understand what he is saying as long as I have it written down in front of me.
The test is on Thursday morning – the day we travel to Cambridge! Fingers crossed for him.
We finally have a date for Chris to have his spinal surgery – Friday 5th December. It’s still a month away, but it is the brilliant surgical team that we wanted of Mr Conlan and Mr Crawford.
I feel relieved and terrified at the same time now. Very happy that we can get the correction done this year but really anxious about the surgery itself – it is such a big operation to put Chris through and yet these teenagers seems to bounce back from it really quickly.
Now that we know the date we can start planning for it and I have a long list of jobs to work through:
- Ask my mother-in-law to look after the dog
- Work out who will look after Anthony while we are in Cambridge (although I already know what he’ll say – “I’m 17 mum and I’m fine to look after myself”)
- Find a hotel near the hospital that we can stay in
- Book some physio appointments for Chris the week prior to surgery – this will help to get his back muscles ‘smooth and relaxed’ rather being ‘tight and knotted’
- Sort out how I will manage my clients’ work in December
- Get Steve to plan the days off that he needs
- Confirm the date with school and work out how long Chris will be absent and how to help keep him up to date with all his GCSE courses
- Speak to the company who is leading the school expedition to Kyrgyzstan and see if they will still take Chris with them in July 2015
And most importantly make sure Chris is fit and well on the day of surgery. The fact that he is still playing football and taking part in matches makes me anxious as I worry that he may be the victim of a bad tackle and have an injury that delays the surgery!
Our first appointment today was at 11.30 in Cambridge with Dr Ross-Russell. This meant leaving home fairly early in case we get stuck on the M25. In fact we had a good journey and arrived in plenty of time for our meeting with Dr Ross-Russell. He examined Chris and then did a full lung function test to check his flow rates. Despite the size of Chris’ curve the results were good and he estimated there was a less than 5% chance of Chris needing to be on an airway post surgery. This was a great relief to all of us.
We then met Sarah Charlton, a Physiotherapist who specialises in paediatric othopaedics and spinal deformity. She examined Chris and was impressed with the muscle tone in this back and how he was able to improve his posture and align his spine by himself thanks to all the exercises and stretches we have done with him over the last year! She also showed us a number of pre and post op x-rays from surgical corrections done by Mr Conlan and Mr Crawford. The x-rays were really impressive and Chris didn’t seem bothered by the sight of all that metal work in someone’s back.
After finishing with Sarah we headed off to find somewhere for lunch and opted for Frankie and Benny’s for something quick and tasty as we only had about 50 minutes before we had to be at Addenbrookes for the MRI Scan.
Yet again Chris was really cool about the MRI and didn’t seem to be too bothered by the small space he had to be in, or the loud noises the machine makes. Once the technician had checked the scans we were free to go – unfortunately straight into the evening rush hour traffic so it was a very long journey home.
But today was a good day. Everyone we met has been really positive about the likely outcome of surgery for Chris and I have great confidence in them. I just wish we had a confirmed date so that we could start planning and preparing ourselves for it. Hopefully it will come through soon.