My Friend Brace

 When I was 12, it became increasingly clear that something was wrong with my spine. For years I had complained about my back aching and that my insides where being crushed but it wasnt until I began puberty and growing rapidly that my issue became visible. My family doctor sent me to the orthopedic clinic at Childrens Hospital in Vancouver BC. The doctor I saw there was absolutly horrified that my curvature was as pronounced as it was and had not been noticed much sooner. He recommended I have rods in my spine as I have scoliosis as well as kyphosis. The scolosis was mild but the kyphosis was severe and was in fact compressing my internal organs. He mentioned a recovery time of upwards of six months and I refused. I walked out of the clinic in absolute horror and was adamant that I was not going to fall behind an entire school year, I was not letting them cut me open.
 Eventually, I did agree to go back and discuss non surgical options.  It was determined that perhaps I could avoid the surgery by wearing a milwuakee style brace 23.5 hours a day except when swimming or showering. I also had to submit to intense physical therapy.
 I remember being so afraid of what was to come when I had to balance myself on that contraption they use to wrap your torso in plaster and create the mold. As the tech was making the mold, he explained they would create an exact cast of  the plaster for my brace. I extended my stomache as much as I could to give myself the most breathing space I could...
Prehaps thankfully, I got the brace in summer and when fall came, I was in a new school where I didnt know a soul. Many of the students assumed I had been in an accident and broke my back or something of that sort.  There was no hiding the brace but it really just became part of who I was. After awhile, I think most of my classmates stopped even noticing my brace. I can only recall one person making fun of me, asking why I wore a dog collar - his girlfriend jumped to my defense and told him off before I even had a chance.
 I wore the brace for two years both day and night. It hated it. I hated that I couldnt wear clothes I liked because they didnt fit, I hated that the front metal bar would rip tiny holes in all of my shirts, I hated that I had to sit so rigid -  I couldnt even tie my shoes properly.  At first, my back ached so bad. I am sure I cried everyday. But I learned to adjust. And after awhile, I came to enjoy the gentle pressure on my rib cage and I actually ached more when I wasnt in the brace.
 When I was nearly 15 and they determined I was finished growing, I was reduced to 18 hours a day in brace. I chose to stop wearing it during school hours. The first day without it, everyone asked where it was! I got more attention and questions about where it went than when I wore it! And I actually found myself missing it. I found it hard to maintain posture on my own without the pressure of the brace while sitting in class. Eventually my time was reduced to 8 hours a day so I wore it only at night. I found myself actually looking forward to time in my brace. 
When I was 16, the doctor informed me that my time with Brace was done. That I didnt need to be wearing it at all anymore. But I could not sleep without it. When I tried, I felt unprotected and uncomfortable. I remember sneaking the brace out of the closet and wearing it. I would set my alarm to go off early so I could sneak it back into the closet. In time, I did learn to sleep without it on, but to this day - 13 years later, I will still dream about wearing it and feel it on my body.

Shaulyn Shaulyn
3 Responses Jul 12, 2010

I have the same experience, when I have finished wearing my brace 23/7, I felt like a wet noodle,.. I newe used to this brace, I hated the neck ring a lot, but it helped,...

Wow! As a mom of an 8 year old getting ready to get fitted for her brace, this surprises me! But I can see that the constant pressure from the brace is comforting. I am so worried about her, her self image, teasing, etc. I would do anything to not have her wear it. All of you on here make it sound so helps to read your stories! Thank you!

Although wearing the brace was not fun for me, it was not horrible. I never was teased for my brace either, more so I was happy that so many kids talked to me and asked me about it. I knew at a young age, going to the Shirne hospital that my life in the brace was nothing compare to many of the other kids at that hospital. Your daughter will be fine! It was scarey to be fitted for my brace because the plaster felt like it was so tight on me and I was afraid of them cutting of the cast. I never thought to push out my stomach to make for more room. Good idea. Have faith in God and everything will be fine. God will not give you or your daughter more than you can handle!

I can relate to that feeling of security and how eventually you actually find it comforting. it's difficult for anyone who has never experienced this to understand. I hope that the brace did it's job well. I use mine for pain management and find it difficult to be without for any length of time.