My Friend BraceWhen 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.