A Second Chance

May 27, 2008
By Lauren Zitkus, Park Ridge, IL

A Second Chance
It was supposed to be a new beginning to a better life. The high school life everyone says will be the best days of your life. But it started out terribly for me though. October of freshman year I was diagnosed with severe scoliosis and had to wear a back brace. That would have been fine if I only had to wear it at home and to bed. Instead, I had to wear it sixteen hours a day, which would mean wearing it to school.
“Mom, I don’t want to wear it to school! Do you know how embarrassing it will be?”
“Lauren, you have to do this!”
This was going to be the most embarrassing thing of my life. It means having to wear a hard plastic brace with velcro on the back, and the plastic goes all the way down past my butt. I won’t be able to wear cute clothes, due to the bulkiness of the brace. I would be forced to wear sweats everyday. What happens when people hear the scratchiness of the velcro as I attempt to bend when I drop something or reach for my backpack? People will think something is wrong with me, and stop and stare. I’m never going to survive this. Not only was the brace a big plastic thing it was impossible to put on. It has three Velcro straps that have to be set to the purple line, and the nurse had to pull it with all of her might. Of course I would go to her after lunch so I had to suck in my stomach, and stop my breathing for a few minutes. I never caught my breath fully again. This was going to be disastrous. How could these doctors expect kids to just be willing to do this? This is so stupid! Are they trying to make us look like idiots? Not only does the back brace make you look like a walking statue, it also hurts .But unfortunately my only other choice would be immediate surgery.

As I walked into school I thought to myself, here I go, I can do this, it’s no big deal, as I carried the brace in a black bag toped with an Abercrombie bag. Hopefully people will just think it’s a project or something, I rapidly walked towards the nurses office, which would be like my home for the next four years because of this stupid brace. As I walked down the hallway I pictured myself walking down the aisle of the church getting married. My back was straight and I had no pain. It was as if I was a normal person with a perfect spine. This is the image I kept in my mind as I turned the knob on the nurses’ office door if I ever wanted this vision to be a reality. I remember walking in and Mrs. Tomasi greeted me happily. She showed me where I would keep my brace until it was time to put it on. I put it there and was to be back at 3rd period.

Third period rolled around and I had butterflies in my stomach like never before. I quietly crept to the nurses’ office hoping no one would see me. As I got the brace on and I yelled for Mrs. Tomasi, I remembered the first time the doctor had ever put it on me. As she adjusted it I had to suck in my stomach almost as I was getting liposuction. I felt like couldn’t breathe. I was so scared to walk back to class knowing I was panting because I wasn’t used to how this felt.

I finally got into class. It was biology; I thought that this would be good class to wear it in, because I thought you just did experiments at your desk. As I go to sit down I hear the velcro start to scratch. I immediately look around to see if any one heard, or is looking. But no one was, so for the first time since I brought the brace to school I felt as if this was going to be ok. This all turned around when I dropped a beaker on the floor and broke into a million pieces. I was embarrassed that I quickly went to clean it up, and totally forgot I was basically paralyzed from the waist up. All the sudden I felt a pop, and the first string of velcro had popped off. Now all everyone could see was me looking like a hunch back, because the velcro made a stick straight form in the back of my sweatshirt. My face turned as bright as a tomato and all I wanted to do is run to the nurses’ office and rip the thing off or even better burn it so I would never have to see it again. Instead I just sat down and acted like nothing had happened. Even though I could feel everyone’s piercing eyes looking at me until the class had ended.

After the incident happened I went to my friends so I could vent. They understood what I was going through and even though they haven’t gone through it they would always be there for me. They were the only ones that I could talk to about it, and joke around about it. Like they would punch my stomach in the hallways and I would think nothing of it because they were my friends, and would never make fun of me about it. It was like I had super abs they said. But then people started to notice what they were doing and one day a boy questioned me,
“Doesn’t that hurt?” he said.

“Actually no….” I replied.

“Why not?” he questioned.

“Uhhh no reason….” I said uneasy.
After that I walked fast past everyone and just went to the nurses’ office and ripped it off after my three hours of wearing it at school were over.
I promised myself that was the last time I would ever wear my back brace at school. When I went to the nurses’ office I learned that she would never come back and check if the brace was there. I decided to test it out one day. The nurse came in and put the brace on me like every other day. She left the room and I quietly took off the brace and snuck it back into the bag where it belonged forever. For the next year and a half this was my routine everyday, until the day I went to the doctor and they told me I only had to wear it at night. They told me this because the curvature got so bad that I needed surgery. This would be two metal rods in my back.
This was a bad decision, and I should have just been embarrassed I mean if people actually knew what I was going through I would have never been embarrassed in the first place. Because they would have understood this was my health I was dealing with. If I didn’t do anything about it like no surgery or brace, my ribs would have eventually crushed my organs. I regret the decision on being embarrassed and would take it back in a heart beat if I could.
My parents haven’t found out yet and with only one year left in high school I’m not very worried. I know they would be disappointed in my decision but there is nothing more we can do in this situation than we are doing now. We are currently going to a chiropractor in Wheaton that makes me do these crazy things. For example, wearing head weights and hip weights, yes you do look goofy but it is all worth it, if it prevents me from surgery. I learned my lesson with the brace, it was that if looking stupid is going to help you in the end it’s worth it, and if people can’t realize that they are really the ignorant ones not you. I know I can’t change my decision from the past but I can stay dedicated to the weights which I have to do twice a day for fifteen minutes and hope for good results. The way I see the chiropractor is as another chance to be totally healthy, and not just settle for a painful surgery.

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This article has 2 comments.

on Nov. 14 2009 at 9:59 pm
madison.234. BRONZE, Victoria, Texas
2 articles 0 photos 2 comments

Favorite Quote:
"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift"
-Steve Prefontain

I am basically in the same situation you were! This is my freshmen year and last summer i was diagnosed with scoliosis and forced to wear a brace. I cried a lot and threw a fit, but my parents told me it was for my health. Like your friends did, mine joke around with me and i am lucky enough that everyone thinks its cool and unique and not wierd after i just explained the situation to them. I let all my friends sign it and draw on it in bright sharpie so if it shows through my shirt it looks cool and no one cares. Thank you for posting this article. Articles like these remind me to do whatever i can to avoid surgery. I hope your weight lifting helps.

on Mar. 26 2009 at 2:53 am
Olivia Fray BRONZE, Lexington, South Carolina
1 article 0 photos 2 comments
I unfortunately had to 'settle for a painful surgery'. (Painful is not the WORD for that.)

My scoliosis was so severe (49 degrees) and found so late (the end of my freshman year of high school) that my only option was surgery. Eight months later, (almost) fully recovered, I find myself appreciating other stories similar to mine, even if it's from a different angle. Congrats on sharing your scoli-story!


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