Over the course of my nearly 30 years as a sports writer, I have interviewed thousands of teenagers. I've seen tall ones, short ones, skinny ones, not-so-skinny ones, massively huge ones.
I've seen kids with the most amazing eyes, the prettiest hair, the straightest teeth. And some really, really cute boys.
Just a few weeks ago, I interviewed a winning pitcher after a baseball game. This one was a peach-fuzz freshman, tall, lanky, skinny even, with hard bony angles and not much muscle. And as I stood a good foot below him, holding UP my digital recorder and asking him questions about his stellar performance, I noticed something new, something I never thought to even look for before.
He has scoliosis.
I noticed immediately that his shoulders were crooked. One was much higher than the other. And because I've known his coach for a long time, I later whispered to him, "Get that kid checked for scoliosis. His shoulders are crooked."
The coach didn't laugh, didn't scoff. He gave me a knowing look. He knows I know.
Over-sharer that I am, pretty much the whole world knows that my daughter, The Snarky Teen, has "significant" scoliosis that we hope will be corrected next month with spinal fusion surgery. She was diagnosed -- by her regular pediatrician at her annual physical -- at the age of 11 with a 31 degree curve. Despite wearing a Boston Brace for more than a year, her curve increased to 47 degrees. That was in October. It's probably more than that by now.
|Lora's X-rays, she went from 31 degrees to 47 degrees in less than two years.|
We took this photo (with her permission) this evening expressly for this blog post. She looked at it and was stunned. She has never seen herself before, not like this.
"Oh my God!" she said. "I didn't know it was that bad! That's crazy!"
Once you do know what you're looking for, though, you start to see it. No, you start to SEE it. Everywhere. In the young pitcher on the mound, in the tall girl waiting at the concession stand, in the photograph of the supermodel doing a simple yoga pose with her young daughter, in your elderly mother-in-law.
June is Scoliosis Awareness Month. And Lora Leigh and I have agreed that we should use her journey to help educate others. So, she has agreed to let the world see her X-rays and her back, and we will post about her journey through surgery and her recovery. We know -- I KNOW -- there are other moms and kids out there who are as terrified as I am. (She's not.)
According to the National Scoliosis Society, only 2 to 3 percent of the population is affected by scoliosis. It can and does affect people of all ages, from infant to the elderly, but females are 8 times more likely to develop scoliosis. There is no definitive cause -- some say it's genetic, some believe it's caused by a miscommunication in the brain. There is no true cure. Some doctors believe in the braces, some in exercise, yoga and stretching, some say those do no good. Some say surgery is the only recourse. Some say surgery is purely cosmetic.
As hard as it is to imagine that surgeon picking up a scalpel and cutting into my child on July 3, it's just as hard to look at that photo of her. It's also hard to believe that she is not in excruciating pain. She is just beginning to experience some discomfort when she sits or stands for long periods, and her legs do hurt. We hope and pray that all of that will be alleviated soon.
And we hope to help spread the word about scoliosis.
These are the things to look for:
A curve or "S" in the spine
One side of back is higher than the other in bent position.