A Word, a Number, and a Letter This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

My life was changed by a few things. The word scoliosis, the number forty-two, and the letter S. I wouldn’t be the sensitive, dramatic person I am today if I hadn’t been shaped by those three things.


I was diagnosed with severe scoliosis my eighth grade year. We were told that my best treatment option was surgery because in the long run scoliosis could end up killing me.

I had never really noticed that my shoulders were uneven or that my hips didn’t line up with my shoulders until then. And once I starting noticing, I began to think everyone else noticed too. I might as well have had “I Have Scoliosis” stamped across my forehead.

So the summer before my freshman year in high school I was scheduled for spinal fusion surgery; on the second day of summer. I was able to enjoy it for a day before being bedridden.

We left home before the crack of dawn on the day of my surgery. The ride to the hospital went by quickly, and the more time that went by, the closer I was to having my surgery. That thought was running through my head on the way there.

We made it there and were checked in. I was prepped and given an IV and amnesia medication to make me forget the next twenty-four hours.

I was scared of not being able to remember anything but I was told that I probably wouldn’t want to remember anything.

I was asked a series of stupid questions that I’d already been asked at my previous per-operation appointments. “Is there any chance you might be pregnant?” Um, no I’m thirteen. And I was asked “Have you eaten or had anything to drink in the past eight hours?” The question was thrown at me at least every five minutes. But I always politely answered no, while listening to my stomach growl.

The next thing I knew I was being wheeled away from my parents. And that’s when I started to cry. They hugged me and waved goodbye saying they’d see me soon. They were leaving me with strangers that were going to cut me open, and stick things inside me. At that moment I was mad at my parents because they were going to let me go in alone. Even though I knew that couldn’t go with me.

I saw bright lights and blue people, and that’s all I remember.

I woke to the beeping of a heart monitor. Why would I hear a heart monitor? Especially one that was beeping to my own heartbeat?

And then I remembered. I’d just had surgery. I was in the hospital. And worst of all, I now had two titanium rods and fourteen screws holding me together. Awesome.

But what I didn’t know was that I was in the Intensive Care Unit. The nurses informed me of this when I questioned them about where I was. They told me I could see my parents soon, but that didn’t work for me. I wanted to see them right away.

I was shown how to use the morphine pump that was attached to my IV. I was given a button to press to make the morphine drip into the IV. It would only drip once everyone eight minutes so if you pressed the button before your eight minutes were up then it made a loud beeping noise. The morphine pump did that a lot.

Finally my parents came in. They were teary eyed and hovered by my bedside. They tried to explain to me what was going on, but I didn't really understand much besides I was in the hospital and it hurt, bad.

My best friend and her mom came in to visit me next. Her mom was a nurse and also tried to explain to me what was going on, but once again, I had no clue. I apparently repeatedly kept saying “Get the cats off my legs!” And I have no remembrance of saying that.

The day in the Intensive Care unit was a blur. I was out of it for the most day, the only movements I made were when my thumb pushed the morphine button. I was visited by relatives and did some respiratory therapy.

I was not a big fan of the respiratory therapy. I wanted to smack the therapist who made me blow into a tube and cough. It was so painful that I began to cry.

It was hard to tell when it was night in the ICU because the lights never went off, the nurses still walked around, and the machines still beeped. It was annoying even if you had no clue what in the world was going on.

The night passed slowly and I could never tell if I was asleep or if I was awake. I stared at the clock most of the night waiting for the little hand to hit the eight so I could be with my parents again.

And when they came they brought me a present. A physical therapist! She was going to help me walk. I was super excited to finally get out of this bed I was trapped in.

I was unhooked from all of the medical gadgets I was attached to and the physical therapist helped me slide off of the bed. I was attached to a catheter which was quite embarrassing as I took slow uneven steps to the ICU desk with the physical therapist holding a bag of urine behind me.

I made it back to my bed and fell asleep right away because I was so exhausted. It was hard for me to believe that I was so tired after walking twenty feet. I became discouraged when I thought about how hard it was going to be for me to be a part of the high school swim team.

The day passed quicker than the previous one, and I was moved out of the ICU. My new room was nice and there was more room. I was told that I had been given a room with a view. A view of the parking garage that is.

I had enough courage to eat dinner that night. I had been terrified to eat anything because I was in so much pain that it would be horrible to be puking on top of everything else. I was only allowed to eat soft foods. But I didn’t care because I got an ice cream sundae. Ice cream always made everything better.

Although the night took a turn for the worse when I realized the patient in the room next to mine had a bed alarm. Every time they got out of their bed “Mary Had a Little Lamb” would play loud enough for the whole floor to hear. And whoever was in the room next door really liked to get out of their bed.

Morning came once again and I was told that I would be going home! I was so happy. Except that when I heard the word home I was ready to go right then and there. But we had to wait around for the hospital to finalize my discharge.

And finally my mom and I were on our way home. My mom seemed to hit every single pot hole on the way home. It was the most painful car ride of my life. But finally I saw the long white fence that ran in front of my house and smiled. Home sweet home.

I went inside and collapsed into the oversized green chair that I would pretty much live in for the next two weeks.

And that was what I did for the next two weeks. Slept, ate, watched movies, read, talked on the phone, slept some more, took pain medication, and stared out the skylight all from that oversized green chair.

Two weeks after my surgery I was cleared to begin physical therapy. I began by swimming at our high school pool. My swim coach had me do exercises that I imagined elderly people with arthritis doing. But three weeks later I swam my first lap.

The summer went on with a family vacation and more recovering. And then my freshman year of high school started.

That year I was able to be a part of the swim team and the marching band. I hadn’t been sure if I would have been able to participate but with a little hard work and determination I pulled through.

There were rough times. Times when I watched my friends do things I couldn’t and was jealous and times when the pain was so bad I broke down crying. But in the end it all turned out okay, just like everyone said it would.

Today when I look at people who are hunched over and have disfigured spines I can’t help but get upset. I feel sorry for them and I can’t help but think that that could have been me. I could’ve been a hunchback, or developed heart and lung problems because of my scoliosis.

I will be standing tall for the rest of my life because of my surgery. And it was okay with me that I needed the assistance of the metal rods to keep me standing tall; its okay with me that I'm the girl with the metal rods in her back. Because its who I am, and true strength lies within.





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