Life In A Body Cast

Before I spent the rest of my childhood years in a neck stretching modified Milwaukee brace, the first two years aged 8 to 10 years was in a body cast from my buttocks to and including my head.

I had a quite severe scoliosis affecting my whole spine, but mostly high up in my neck area.

My treatment was firstly by what is called serial casting, we are talking late 1950s, to be followed by a modified Milwaukee brace until I stoped growing, in other words from when I was aged 8 until I was 16 when it was thought I had reached skeletal maturity, was spent cast and braced.

I was stretched on a traction frame to have the cast applied. Many layers of plaster were used extending from right down on my buttocks to and including my head leaving only the very top of my head and face free of plaster from eyebrows to lower lip.

The worst part of this cast was the neck portion. The plaster was moulded over my shoulders but was raised so it did not exert any pressure on my shoulders, then continued tightly moulded to under and over chin, whole back of my head and forehead.

The neck portion was extended so my neck was stretched in the cast and I only felt the full affect of this when the head halter holding my neck in traction was released and pulled out the side of the cast and the chin piece and rear head piece pushed up hard to maintain the neck stretch.

At the same time the pressure of the cast pushed downwards over my hips and very tight on my buttocks to maintain the stretch.

The cast had also been made very low at the front which they trimmed and told us this would be further adjusted when I was mobile in a few days.

The whole cast had been put on so tight I could't move my head at all in the cast, but the tightest part of the cast was over my stomach and this is where it pressed in really hard.

They told my parents that sometimes they cut a blow hole over the stomach area to releive some of the pressure to allow the stomach to expand when eating.

In my case this was not to be. Because my paricular cast needed to be so extensive to address and to force correction I was to remain totaly encased.

This caused problems because I could only eat small ammounts of food because there was nowhere for my stomach to expand under the plaster so I had to eat small meals at more regular intervals. I can only describe the feeling as being in a extreamily tight corset, but not removable.

After a few days I was got up. They told my I may feel a bit dizzey after lying on my back for several days, but I was ok with this.What I was not prepared for was the weight of the cast, my knees nearly buckled when taking the full weight of the plaster on standing, this is something I would get used to they told me.

I was walked to a full length mirror to see the full extent of the cast and I burst into tears on seeing myself. It was so bulky and so noticibly thick. They had tilted my head back slightly so I was partially looking up and could not see the ground directly in front of me. They had also arched my back in the cast which made my bottom stick out.

I was now to learn how restricted this cast was through a series of attempted motions I was told to do.

They wanted to know if the cast was completely immobolising me which they said was so important when I was being held in a high neck stretching posture.

First I was told to try and look up as much as possible. I tried my hardest but only managed to lift my chin very slightly of the chin portion.

Next try and look left and right just turning my head. Totaly immpossible not one fraction of an inch movement possible.

Next try and look down, again no movement.

At these results they were happy with my head was completly immobolised.

They led my over to a hard upright chair and told me they were going to sit me down. On sitting I had to keep my legs together in front of me.

They took my weight under my arms and slowly lowered me on the chair. My bottom was still about six inches off the seat and the lower front of the plaster was digging  into the tops of my legs and has it did so I could feel the chin and rear head portions of the cast pushing up even harder.

They stopped at this point and marked the bottom of the cast and started to trim it to the line they had made.

They slowly sat my down again until I couldn't get any lower about four inches off the seat. Again more trimming. Again I was sat down, this time my bottom was about two inches off the seat before the plaster was pressing on the tops of my legs and I heard them say right we go al the way. Once down on the seat I could not actually feel my bottom connect with the seat as I was actually sitting on the plaster over my buttocks.The plaster was now pushing hard on the tops of my legs and the chin portion was pushing up so hard under my chin I could bearly open my mouth and the portions moulded over my shoulders were raised higher.

They told my parents this is how it had to be, they would not trim any more off the cast because in this sitting position the cast was forcing more corrective forces. They told my parents the lower the chair the more the cast would push up.

It was a nightmere getting cloths to fit over the cast because it was so thick and bulky. I wore trousers with elasticated waists and T shirts two sizes to big. During the summer months the cast was my upper clothing with the cast in full view.

I had cast changes every three months. Each time a new cast was applied they forced a little more neck extension, they told my it was to allow for how much I had grown but it didn't feel like it.

After two years the cast was finally removed for good but only to be replaced with a modified Milwaukee brace which basically did the same job as the cast.

As anyone else had to experience such a cast, and how did they feel.

prouler prouler
6 Responses Mar 27, 2010

When i was 16 i was hit by a car and rushed straight to the hospital. I had a broken back, neck and many other bones throughout my body. Just to top it all off i had a fractured skull as well. I had a full body cast put on that cover my whole body except for from my bottom lip to eyebrows. They then told me it would be on for 1 year. 1 year later when i came to have it removed they toke x rays and put my cast straight back on. This then stayed on till i was 27. 11 years of a full body cast, not fun.

spent a year in a full body cast after a year in a striker bed do not know howi would have made it as long as you had to be in them

That was such and intense story! It's stories like that which remind me how fortunate my life has been thus far in terms of my health.

I have a couple question: how did this affect your schooling? Did you go to a public school or would that even be possible? Did you have support from family and what kind of things had to be drastically changed to accommodate this new life style?

Lastly, is English not your native language? I only ask because of how you use the word my instead of me in a few places. Eg "...they told my it was to allow for how much...". Not a big deal and not trying to nit pick because to me it would add to your already colorful story knowing a little of your background.

Hopefully all of the agony was worthwhile and you are doing well! Take care and thnx for the story.

Do you think the cast worked---was it worth it? Did you have to go to school like that?

Yes it worked. Yes I had to go to school like this

That's good it worked then.

First of all let me say that I am so happy that I can relate to people who know exactly how I feel and felt. My story started when I was just about 9 months pregnant with my son. I was told that I had scoliosis and that being pregnant would make it worst. So after my son was born May, 1976, I was referred to an othopedic specialist at Mary Immaculate Hospital in Queens, NY. Well as soon as you can say Mary Immaculate Hospital I was told that I would have to have the surgery right away. I was 17, had just given birth and didn't realize that they may not have known what they were doing. I said goodbye to my two month old son and went to the hospital. Here's where the torture began, first I had to lay in traction for a month before the surgery. Second I had just moved in with my son's father's family because I was a foster child and my son's grandmother (he was born on her birthday) wanted my son; I had just moved into a home for unwed mother from a home for pregnant girls. So it was nice to be wanted even if "I" wasn't the one that was wanted. But now I would have to be away from my son and no one ever brought him to see me. If I had been allowed to stay with my sister in the foster home we were raised in I'm sure she would have cared for him and brought him to see me. Third, I felt that I had been rushed, wasn't prepared for any of the questions that I should have asked and I should have had a representative with me supporting me and asking the right questions. So there I was lying in a hospital bed with a belt around my waist that had ropes and weights hanging off the bed, missing my newborn baby. If that wasn't enough, every now and then the doctors would call me to what I thought would be their office, well guess what it turned out to be? I was in a large room with rows of the doctors students, they were sitting on steps that progressed upwards. I was ordered to bend over and being the 17 year old black girl that I was I balked at the idea of "being presented" like a prized pig! I didn't have any money so I couldn't afford nice pajamas, therefore I was wearing a hospital gown with the back out and not one person (including myself) though to get another to cover my back. Finally I whispered to the dr that I didn't have any underwear on. "Were all doctors here" he spouted, so I shrugged my shoulders and bent over showing my now full black ***! The student broke out in laughter, so much for them being doctors. This happened several times during the month. So not only did I miss my son, my foster parents, my sister and other siblings, I was being laughed at on a regular basis. My ego was doing just fine then, NOT! I was told over and over that I would be in a body cast but they never showed me pictures of what it would look like and how I would feel. All I heard was "Blah, blah, blah". Imagine my surprise when I woke up first to find my foster mother standing at the foot of my bed and my social worker sitting looking in my face with her ulgy face! "Why is my mommy standing and you're sitting". "Frances" my mother warned "Don't start". I was a mother now too and so instead of shutting up as I had done as a child, I now spoke up "No, Mommy. Why does she think that I want to wake up from surgery and see her!" The social worker now realized that my mother should have been sitting at my bedside and offers my mother a seat. "Oh, I'm sorry would you like to sit down?" Of couse my mother now refused, I suspected that she was alittle mad at me and upset that the social worker thought she had more presidence over who I saw first when I woke up. I was in the body cast and couldn't move, of course I saw the person standing at the foot of the bed first, "So there!" to that social worker. Then after she left and my mother and I began to talk I realized that I had finally done it, I was now in a body cast and I cried. Mommy tried to calm me down and she did but the trama and drama hadn't started yet. I was in a children's ward because they didn't have a room for me in the adult area. So when I finally sat up and asked to go to the bathroom I was put in a wheel chair and taken to a community bathroom. Do you know what it's like to have your first **** after surgery? Well it stunk! I couldn't imagine why since I hadn't had anything to eat in 24hrs before surgery. I'll never forget this young little white girl coming in after me and saying it stinks, then she looked at me knowing I had done it. Roll me up in a ball and just roll me away. Oh, thats right I can't I'm in this damn thing. I was able to go home and no one came and got me so I had to take the subway from Queens to the Bronx. That was fun! People stared at me and offered to help but were unable to stop the pain I felt when people would shove me back and forth on the subway. The bus ride didn't go much better and the pills that I was given had worn off. Upon entering the apartment, I went on a hunt looking for my baby. I opened a room and saw my friend Kyle feeding a butterball baby, I just closed the door, I didn't know Kyle had a baby, too. I went to the next room and asked my son's uncle where my son was. "In the room, leave me alone" he went back to sleep. Could it be that she was holding and feeding my baby?! Slowly I opened the door again "Hi Frances" she said. "Is that my baby"? I asked "Yeah, this is Crissy" she proudly said. "What happened to my baby he looks like a butterball turkey" I was upset, mad and pissed that I hadn't returned home to my own home with my mother and sister there with my baby. I sat down on the bed and she put William in my arms. My baby cried at the coldness of the bodycast and I cried cause I couldn't hold my baby close to me. I was in that body cast for 9 months before I told them that I refused to wear another. After the second body cast, I had to go in every three months to have it changed, I came into the office without the cast. "Where is the body cast" the dr exclaimed. "I took that **** off. You kept rescheduling cause you had to play golf (his secretary confessed to me over the phone) I kept getting fat then loosing weight, getting fat then loosing weight. It hurt so I had my son's uncles saw it off with knives. To this day they still remember that. "You could fall and hurt yourelf" he said. "I already fell with that thing on and you changed my date yet again" I sneered at him. I weighted 97lbs.

In 1976 I fell 80 ft and broke my back. They had to decompress my spinal cord nerves by fusing the lower half of my spine. Eight ince stainless steel harrington rods helped suppot the fusion. However I still had to be put in a full plaster body cast. It was from my kness to shoulders. I was bed ridden for 4 months. <br />
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The casting process involved being put on a casting table. First I was tightly wrapped in a stockinet. Then I was placed on a very tight 12" wide tension strap. Facing up with my back and head on the strap my legs were bent up a little and spread well apart and drapped over a padded bar. The wide leg spread was for good genital hygene.<br />
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Then I was tightly wrapped in a thick felt padding. After that 4 people busily tightly wrapped a lot of plaster around me from knees to shoulders. A 30" long speader bar was wrapped in, securing my spread knees. As the plaster set the orderlies supported my weight and the tension strap that supported me was released and pulled through the cast. I was put on a gurney and wheeled to my room.<br />
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In my room a cast drier was blowing on me for almost a day to set the thick plaster cast. I often found the cast to be erotic and sexual. There was an intense feed back feel. A week or two in such a cast is okay, but after 4 months of such confinment I was glad to get out of it.<br />
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After being cut out of the cast I was put on a gurney and brought to a hubbard tub. In this whilpool tub I laid on stretcher and had my dead skin removed. Soon after I was put back on the casting table for another plaster cast from my hips to my upper chest. A while later I got up and walked.<br />
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Four months later that cast was removed and I wore a fr<x>ame brace for a while.<br />
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As I got older with no bracing, but being active my poster got worst and I had cronic back pain. By then I saw plastic 2 half plastic shell braces being used. they looked comfortable and effective. I was a canidate to have a dangerous spinal ostiotomy operation , but with my initiation I tried the shell brace first. It helped a lot and I avoided surgery. The doctors opinion changed. <br />
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Currently I traction and brace on convenient physical therapy basis. I sear by it and will do it for the rest of my life, even if my back can be fully restored. It is equally important to be active with out the brace.<br />
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Please comment back.

Its nice to hear from someone that has experienced body casting and you know the weight of these casts were horendous.
You sound if your cast was opposite to mine being to your knees whereas mine to include neck and head. You had to endure a 30inch spreader bar whereas I had to endure an unforgiving extension of my neck within the cast.
Did you have a blow hole over your stomach or was you denied this as I was? The other difference was you were in the cast 4 months whereas I spent 2 years casted.
I knew a boy who had casts and a spreader bar but I think he had a hip problem. He was casted in thick heavy leg casts on both legs from tops to toes and two long spreader bars attached to the casts.

Please comment back

As far as casting I think you went thru more than I did. Even though I was bed riden, being able to move my head was a help. One nurse told me the doctors were talking about adding a halo to the full body cast and that i would have hated that. There was no stomach hole on my full body cast, but one was cut latter on my second torso cast. The halo traction may have been worth while, because I now have a posture problem. It was really bad when I was in 20's to mid 40's and developed into cronic back pain. 15 years ago I got into shell bracing. After seeing this more comfortable brace I initiated the idea with a back surgon. He said I was a condidate for a spinal ostiotomy operation but let's try the brace. The operation would have involved cutting the fusion and repositioning to a better angle. The possible complications are more nerological damage and death. I saw the doctor 6 months later and changed his opinion ( no surgery for you ) stay with the bracing. My latest brace has optional rigid shoulder straps where I can add an inflatable neck collar to form a CTLSO. In this I can't do much because I can't look down. Being like this 24/7 for years has to be really tough. You must have been thin and weak. I traction now without the shoulder straps. The collar now has 2 loops that I added for a rubber bungi cord. I traction in bed or attach to the ceiling. I am big on traction and have to brace holding the better posture. I am doing much better now and this will be a life long therapy. Consider this part time prevention for your self. Having bad posure in your latter years is really tough. How are you doing now. Keep in touch.