Sco•li•o•sis: a lateral curvature of the spinal column
I remember the day but not the date. My daughter was twelve years old. She had returned from visiting her cousins and was wearing a dance unitard.
Kids change so quickly at that age. It’s why we take pictures. All winter everyone is bundled up under multiple layers. You forget what people look like. Even your own kids.
I saw it when she went upstairs. I almost wished I hadn’t but I knew I’d seen something that didn’t look right. I needed to see it again.
I signaled to my wife to come upstairs. “Something doesn’t look right with Izabella.” We asked her to come in and turn around. My wife lifted up her shirt. The curve in her back was undeniable.
My wife took her to the family pediatrician who referred us to the children’s hospital for x-rays. The spinal clinic scheduled a consultation. We were told she had a spinal curve of about 30 degrees that would progressively increase in severity unless she had spinal surgery. The procedure involved opening up the back, inserting a custom made metal rod and affixing it to the spine. While the procedure was common for scoliosis sufferers, there were no assurances it would arrest the curve. As with any surgery, there was always a chance of complications.
The consulting surgeon advised us to schedule the procedure then and there. Finding this a little abrupt, we did not. The hospital then offered us a spot at an upcoming open house for parents considering spinal surgery for their children. The presentation would focus on scoliosis and spina bifida.
We arranged for a babysitter and drove to the hospital in stone silence. We found our way to the presentation room where another couple waited outside. The tension was as though we were about to witness an execution. We introduced ourselves to the other couple. Their son had spina bifida and were considering their options. We shared that our daughter had scoliosis. It was reassuring to talk to them and relieved the feeling that we were suffering alone in this.
It was now fifteen minutes past the scheduled presentation time. We went to the nearest reception desk and reiterated that we were there for the spinal surgery presentation and discussion. I asked if the room location for the presentation had changed. The receptionist went to get someone in a back office to come speak to us. The person who emerged told us that the presentation would not be proceeding tonight and that she was very sorry.
The other couple, and my wife and I stared at her in disbelief. I was too angry to speak. The shock on our faces must have been visible and I could tell the person felt genuine remorse and embarrassment. Knowing that she was the messenger and not the person responsible, I held my tongue.
We prepared to leave, incredulous that the hospital could be so callous as to brush off people making potential life and death decisions for their children. We wished the other couple well with their son’s health and left.
The next day I called a childhood friend who was a chiropractor. I told him about Izabella. He advised me that scoliosis treatment had come a long way and could be effectively managed with chiropractic medicine. He also said that, as any surgical procedure carries risks and is the most invasive of all treatments, it must always be the last option.
He referred us to Dr. Jackie Rogers. Jackie has a chiropractic practice specializing in the treatment of scoliosis. Herself, a scoliosis sufferer and patient of the metal rod spinal surgery procedure, Jackie’s practice is based on keeping patients out of spinal surgery with regular treatment and adjustment. In her career, she has only had one patient take the metal rod surgery and this person came to her at age 75.
Izabella has been seeing Jackie weekly for over ten years now and they have formed a strong bond of friendship and trust. There were some Physical Education activities she had to be exempted from at school due to her condition. Her curve has impacted one side of her rib cage which in turns affects her lung capacity. She tires easily at times. As a result, we don’t push her. Today, Izabella is at peace with her condition and shares her journey on her Youtube channel, Izzy BG.
Otherwise, she participates in all the activities that a woman her age would enjoy, especially dance. We have offered to take her for a consultation at a renowned scoliosis clinic outside New York City but she has declined our offer, content to continue with Dr. Jackie.
I’m very grateful for Jackie’s role in Izabella’s life and am glad I reached out to my childhood friend, Dr. Jordan Myers in Coquitlam, B.C., for his advice.
If your child has scoliosis, ask questions about non-surgical alternatives and do not be pressured into submitting to surgery happy hospitals.