Today was our four-month checkup with the Orthopedic Surgeon – but, today we met our new Doctor, Dr. Li. As I’ve mentioned before, after years working with Dr. Vanderhave, I was nervous that our new Doctor and I wouldn’t see eye to eye. Everyone knows how leery I am of surgery for my children, but Dr. Li really put us at ease. We liked her instantly. She spent a lot of time discussing the surgery and the pros and cons with us. When we left, my daughter said that she not only liked Dr. Li, but that she felt less nervous about surgery because she felt like she was in good hands with our new Doctor. I know that it’s tough to make a judgement call with one meeting, and a Doctor’s credentials have to be a deciding factor in how competent they are, but I had done that research ahead of time and will continue to learn more about Dr. Li by talking to other parents of her patients. In the meantime, we breathe a sigh of relief because we feel like we continue to be in great hands. The University of Michigan Hospital system is first rate, and Dr. Li fits right in. She even has some research developing in the area of pain management after surgery – it could hold a lot of hope for us in the future. Dr. Li really urged us to consider surgery sooner, rather than later (around age 11 or 12 – our daughter is currently 11). But, she backed up her recommendation with great answers to many of my questions. And, I had a lot of questions! Our balancing act is that at 71 degrees (which my daughter measured today), we run the risk of her curve spiraling out of control when she hits her pre-puberty growth spurt (that most young girls experience in the year or so before menses). Her lower (lumbar) curve has gotten a bit better over the years. When we first started this battle, her spine was essentially an S, with the lumbar and thoracic curves being almost equal. But, now her lumbar is not very noticeable, but her thoracic spirals way to the side. Dr. Li is recommending a fusion up to T1 because she worries that as she straightens the thoracic, that her upper thoracic area, and into her cervical area (neck) will curve to compensate. Fortunately, the thoracic spine is the best part to fuse because she will not experience a lot of mobility constraints. It’s the cervical and lumbar parts of the spine that need to bend the most.
The other great news is that they no longer use bone grafts from the hip bone to fuse the spine! That is great, as I’ve heard that many patients experience more pain from the donation site (the hip bone) than from the surgery site itself. They use the bone fragments they remove when they insert the screws and then donation bone fragments from cadavers. (My daughter was not thrilled when I explained what a Cadaver was!)
I can tell that the Lord is bringing us peace and acceptance because my daughter and I got through it, and the rest of the day, without crying. In fact, we are starting to achieve peace about it. I still mist up when I think of her coming out of surgery, in such pain for days afterward, with a slit all the way down her perfect, young back. But, it also pains me to see how her shoulders are starting to become misshapen and a hump beginning to form on her back. Either way, this disease will be hard – I’ve always just tried to navigate which hard to choose. And, I will never know what the perfect decision is or if it will work or not. It becomes a well-informed guessing game and a walk in faith – nothing about Scoliosis treatment is one-size-fits-all.
We visit Dr. Li again in 4 months. My son will not be x-rayed (again – he wasn’t today, either) For now, his Scoliosis is all but gone and he wears a brace at night to keep him straight. His battle might come later, but we are freed up a bit to concentrate on our precious girl. When we meet then, we will discuss timing for the surgery. We are thinking possibly one year from this Spring – so she is through the worst of it before summer, but still has the summer to recover additionally. She will miss about a month of school when the time comes, but we’ll keep her on target! She just wants to make sure she is 100% for basketball season! 🙂
We will see where this road leads. Thank-you all for your support in our adventure!