Emily has had quite the year. I think that each member of our family has learned a few lessons about how to handle life, when one is handed lemons twice in one year. This brave young lady has been through a lot, and she has done it with grace.
It all started about three years ago when the school nurse sent home a form saying that Emily possibly had Scoliosis. At that time it was determined that her curve was at 7 degrees by her pediatrician. Every six months we went to the doctor to have the condition monitored. After her curve changed to 13 degrees, we were sent to see an orthopedic surgeon to monitor her curve. In January of 2011, we were told that we would never have to worry about bracing because she didn't have enough growth left for her curve to change very much. We were quite surprised, as was the doctor, when last summer her curve had changed to 26 degrees.
(8 Plate Knee Surgery 6-27-2012)
With a curve above 25 degrees, kids with scoliosis are placed in a brace. Emily wears a TLSO brace, 23 hours a day. In August, she will have been in it for a year. The brace was pretty hard at first for her to get used to and it's really, really hot to wear. She's been really good about wearing it and her attitude about the brace has come a long way. At first she didn't want any one to know about it, and now she doesn't care at all. Her curve has progressed from 26 - 30 degrees, but it's considered stable. We're hoping in six more months for her to go to only wearing it at night. She does live in chronic back pain from this, so she has started seeing a chiropractor, which seems to be diminishing her pain. There is no guarantee that she will not need surgery on her back in the future. Sometimes after discontinuing the use of the brace, the curve just finishes curving to where ever it was headed to in the first place. We just don't know what her curve is going to do.
(Example of the plates and screws placed in Emily's knees - this is not her. Before x-ray on the left, and one year after surgery on the right.)
A few weeks ago I noticed that it looked like the shape of Emily's legs were taking on a bowed look. (She has grown a lot in the last year.) I worried about it for a week before looking up what bowed legs looked like on the internet. After doing some searching, I was almost certain we had a problem. Thankfully, her orthopedic doctor was able to get us in, in less than a week. She took one look and said there was for sure something going on. After a quick x-ray, my fears were confirmed. Her legs were bowing from her hips to her ankles. She needed surgery, and she needed it soon. There are two surgeries to fix this, one less invasive, and one very invasive. The doctor explained that we had a small window of time left to do the less invasive surgery since she still had a small opening in her growth plates.
We checked in on Wednesday morning at 6 a.m. to have the surgery. She was so brave though the whole thing. The surgery went smoothly and the only concern at the moment, is if we were able to do the "fix" in time. There is a possibility that she doesn't have enough growth left to straighten her legs out all the way. You need at least 6 months of growth to make the correction. This was not done for cosmetic reasons. If we didn't correct this, she would develop arthritis in her knees by age thirty. (I have early on set arthritis in my right hand, with little movement left in my thumb and I can't imagine living with that kind of pain in my knees.)
(Example of a similar TLSO brace. Emily's is longer and solid plastic from top to bottom.)
Emily is on day three of her recovery and is doing decent. She was able to come home the afternoon of surgery and is taking up residence in the recliner. She walks with crutches to the bathroom, but it's quite painful for her. As long as she's on her pain medication she's pretty comfortable, unless she has to stand for some reason or another. Tonight was the first night we had her put on her TLSO brace. I hated to make her put it back on, but we felt like she should. So at the moment, she can only move her arms and her neck. (She's braced from her thighs to her ankles and her hips to her arm pits.) Talk about tugging at a mama's heart strings.
Emily has had the BEST attitude about this and I can't express how proud I am of her. I just love this young lady. She's taught me a few lessons. I probably spend too much time reading and following blogs, but I will say there are so many that you can come across with kids that have cancer and other horrible things, that it really makes you be able to keep things in perspective.
I just hope and pray that after this, my sweet girl gets a little break...