Maggie Yastrow
13 Years Old
My Story

When I went to overnight camp this year, the thought of surgery was not a worry of mine, but it was always in the back of my mind. It did not become clear how badly I needed the surgery until after parents weekend when I realized how much my curve had progressed based on the way my family was acting. Fortunately, I continued my summer, almost worry free. But wow, was I in for a surprise.

When I got home from camp, my dad told me I was going to see a new doctor, Dr. Mardjetko. Even then, I wasnt scared. It didnt hit me until the night before my appointment that I realized how possible it was that I would need surgery. When we got to the office, I kept trying to convince myself that all he would say was that I needed intense physical therapy, but I knew there was no chance of that. Well, I was right; he told me I needed surgery.

Then, the doctors left the room and I was never more hysterical in my life. I couldnt even think, this was my biggest fearand it was actually going to happen! Millions of thoughts were running through my head, I just wanted to get out of there! My parents hugged me and told me everything would be okay, but I just couldnt believe them.

My biggest fear was that I would wake up during the middle of the surgery, my dad, being a doctor himself assured me that it was impossiblebut I just didnt feel convinced. He told me it is a common fear of many teenagers, and that it never happened to any of them.but I always thought, what if it is different for mewhat if I am the one girl that does wake up.

My dad arranged an appointment to meet with my anesthesiologist, and I loved her. Once I kept playing the things she said about waking up over and over in my head, I knew it was impossible. Even though I left her house, still with a few concerns, the visit was an extremely positive thing.

Soon after, my biggest fear was the pain! My anesthesiologist and all of my other doctors told me I would have an epidural to take care of the pain, and that most of the time it worksand of course the first thing I thought waswell its not going to work for me! I was told that if the epidural did not work, that immediately I would be put on a pump, that I myself could squeeze whenever I was in pain. I didnt want to go on that pump though, because I never like a plan b Although I had so many fears the thing I was never afraid of was the doctors and nurses who would be taking care of me. They are amongst the best, and I loved them all. Any one I knew who knew them; all said amazing things about them, and it made me feel much better. I knew they would take great care of me, but I was still afraid of the unknown. The one thing they could not tell me was exactly how I would feel or exactly what my recovery would be like because they didnt know for sure, because everyone is different and that bothered me. I became envious of the people I knew of who had already had the surgery, and knew was it was like, and most of allI was envious because they were through with it! My doctors and nurses told me about how many kids come out with a positive experience, but of course I began thinking, well what if its not the same for me?

It came down to the night before my surgery, and it had become a game of, what if? I wasnt being rational and couldnt help to think that so many terrible things would happen. I ended up staying up the rest of that night with my dad, and had never been more nervous literally in my entire life. When we drove to the hospital, I was shaking! I couldnt believe it, after the entire month before my surgery of just using all my energy to think of what was going to happen, it was finally here...but I just had to keep telling myself, by the end of today, it will be OVER! I had to think of soon, Ill have a straight back and all the great things that come with it! As I was waiting in the hospital bed for my doctors to come, I got to see my anesthesiologist and my nurse; it was very comforting to see familiar faces, faces that I trusted. After my doctor came, I was almost too nervous to be nervous. I dont know if that makes sense but I was happy that it was finally here, and that I wouldnt have to worry anymore! I was given medicine while I was waiting, that calmed me downand even though I knew I was nervous I couldnt convince my mind to be nervousso I was pretty content. I was wheeled away and let go of my parents hand, it was just like a movie scene, I get the chills thinking back on it now. My mom was the one crying, not me! But I remember right before I went into the operating room I looked at my anesthesiologist and said, Im scared. And really, thats all I can say to describe how I was feeling, scared!

My surgery lasted 8 hours and the funny thing is, most people wake up crying (not because they are in pain, from the medicine) but I woke up cracking jokes about my swollen lips, saying I looked like Penelope Cruz, ha-ha! And everything my doctors told me was true, the first couple of nights were like a dream, and I didnt remember much but the one thing I do remember was that my pain was VERY minimal. It wasnt even pain, it was discomfortI wasnt used to being so straight! And one of the first things I said was to tell my friend who was going to have the surgery soon that its not that bad! I remember one of the first things I thought was, OH MY GOSH!! ITS OVER!! The epidural was working very smoothly on me; the only thing was that I was having internal itching that lasted for a few days which might have been caused to an allergic reaction to the epidural. And of course, I didnt wake up during the surgery, I am almost for lack of a better term embarrassed that I ever thought I would, but if you are thinking that, I know how scary it is! Almost all of the fears I had, never became reality, and I couldnt be happier to be able to say that.

Although many of my fears never happened, there were a few things that I never knew would happen. One of the things was that my catheter was very sore, which is rare. I would have to say that out of everything, that was probably the most discomfort I was in, which wasnt even that bad! And I dealt with it, the nurses were very careful with me and I knew they would ask me before doing anything with it, but I was relieved when they took it out! Also, it took a long time for me to get a full appetite back, which wasnt that bad other than the fact that I would get frustrated when I was told I had to eat. It takes a while for your body to fully wake up, meaning it takes a while to have regular bowel movements, which made me so mad, I mean its one of the things I do best, ha-ha! But it can cause a stomach ache, but worse comes to worse, youll have a suppository or given Metamucil or a medicine of the sort. Another thing is that, at first it is hard to breathe, but you cant panic and if youre asked to go on the little thing that helps you breath, you should because it helps, but I know I had the oxygen on for most of the time because I felt more secure with it on. Also on a more positive note, I never expected so many gifts and visitors! Let me tell you, friends are the best medicine. I still several weeks later, have candy and cookies left over!

Now, I am not a person on sugar-coating so I am going to be honest, when physical therapy comes, it is a really big pain! Its annoying because almost right after I was falling asleep, they would have to come in, and its hard work! But you HAVE to stay positive, and can not be stubborn. I dont want to sound conceded, but I was very good when it came to physical therapy because I wanted nothing more then to get out of the hospital and the first step to that is, physical therapy. I kept telling myself, I can take this many more stepsI can do it, I can do it! And it helped! I ended up getting out of the hospital as early as you can! Although it came to me as a surprise when I discovered how stiff I felt when walking, and laying down as well.

When I got home, I was a mess, not pain wise but emotionally. I was on medicine that makes you depressed, and basically down in the dumpsso I told myself I am going to try my hardest to get off this medicine, and if you have a positive attitude like that, youll get off of it in no-time. In the hospital, and at home I was very irritable because I was so tired. Everything was annoying me, sounds, people calling, and so on, but your family will be understanding if you tell them you need your own space.

One of the things that really bothered me, was the only way I was comfortable was if I was lying down, and even still I felt stiff. I didnt think before my surgery that I wasnt going to be able to come home and just chill on the couch, its an effort!! But you have to tell yourself, Im healing right now and I cant get too ahead of myself. I just had to take it one day at a time, because every day I noticed a difference, and every day my back became more and more relaxed. Its something that can take three to six months to get back to normal, but its worth it! Also, when I got irritable or annoyed with the way I felt, it helped so much to get some fresh air, so if you can, you should get outside and go for a nice walk, and take in the air! In that area, I was stubbornI needed a lot of motivation to get myself outside, but when I finally would get myself to get outside, I felt so much better! Like I said before, each day makes a difference. Soon I was getting my appetite back, the nights were becoming easier, I could go to the bathroom and take showers by myself, I was moving my bowels regularly, I could walk longer distances, and I just overall felt a whole lot better! Just stay patient, and like my dad has told me many times before, right now your body is moving at about 5 miles per hour, while your mind is moving 100000 miles per hour.

After about a week of being home I started tutoring. And it was great! The days become boring, because for a while all you can do is watch T.V or read a book, but tutoring gave me something to do. As much as you think it would be so much better to lay around instead of school work, it really is the other way aroundtrust me! If you are worried about falling behind in school, you wont, your tutor will keep you up to speed on everything, and the tutor and teachers will understand COMPLETLEY if you cant do all of the assignments your given.

It has been almost 2 months since my surgery and I am amazed at how good I feel, I could say that I am very close to feeling 100% normal, and its only going to get better! Before, I couldnt stand looking at my back in the mirror, because it was so strange looking, but now I look at it all the timeit truly is a beautiful thing! When I talk to people about my experience I say, You know sometimes I feel like I didnt go through the entire thing, because it wasnt that bad, and you think it would bebut its not. Although I would never put myself through it again, I can honestly say that it was a great experience. When I look back and tell myself what I went through, I feel so great about myself. I mean I am 13 years old and can say that I have been through more physically and emotionally then a lot of 40 year old adults! I feel like I have so much bravery and courage. People say that this surgery can prepare me for any obstacles that can come my way, and I honestly believe that! This surgery taught me so many things about life, it has made me a better person in more ways then you can imagine!

I am proud to share my story, and would love to talk to anyone who wants to share their feelings with me. My doctors and nurses told me I was the new rock-star patient, and I cant express how amazing that feels, I know if you stay positive, and work hardanyone could have a positive outcome! I am proud to say that I am of the kids that is through with it but soon you will be too! But really, you are never through with it, in a good way! It will follow me for the rest of my life and constantly remind me of how brave, and courageous I am, and will let me know that I can make it through ANYTHING!

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