Brace? I have to wear a brace!? Those may be the first words coming to mind after your scoliosis diagnosis; I sure know they were mine!
In the early-mid 1990s, I had my first brace fitting. I remember being wrapped mummy-style in cheesecloth material from my underarms to my pelvis, my torso plastered in, well, cold plaster, and being sawed down the mid-line with a cast saw after it dried (I came out in one piece, though!). The goal here was to have an exact cast and measurements of my body for which the brace was adjusted to help minimize my curve progression. Shortly after that, I came home with my own, brand new, custom-fitted scoliosis brace to show off to all of my jealous friends! Except that I never really showed it off to anyone and it was always hidden under my clothes. I bet most people never knew I wore it unless they accidentally touched it or saw an abnormal shape jutting out from under my clothes with certain movements.
I instantly had abs of steel with my new brace and revealed this newfound anatomical enhancement of mine to a neighbor-kid who was a few years younger than I was. With my brace hidden under my clothes, I encouraged him to punch me as hard as he could in my gut. He kept saying “no” while slyly shifting his gaze from one side to the other to see if any adults were around. Finally, with a big grin on his face, he planted his fist smack-dab in the middle of my rock hard abs. “OUCH! What is that!” he exclaimed while rubbing his sore fist. He never knew that both of my parents were watching, and laughing, from the secrecy of a nearby bedroom window.
I wore 3 different braces throughout elementary school as I grew, and it just became a part of who I was. We all know how children can be when someone is different from them, particularly when they don’t quite understand how or why someone is the way they are. But, I cannot think of a single instance where a classmate made fun of me for wearing a brace everyday to school. I tried my darndest to fit in with everyone else, and I would like to think that I was successful in that endeavor. Overtime, I adapted to wearing a rigid back brace and was able to participate in the same activities as my classmates and peers. My brace never felt like a hindrance; I even tried somersaulting with my gymnastics friends on the school playground before being reprimanded by a concerned teacher. In truth, I never let my brace stop me.
While I tolerated the brace, it wasn’t exactly fun or comfortable to wear. As I stated in my previous post, I had to wear it 23 hours a day, every day, for a few years. I wore an undershirt underneath the brace (to protect my skin and soak up sweat), and then wore my regular clothes on top of that. My first two braces were Boston braces I believe (though could be wrong!), which opened and tightened in the back; every evening, my mother helped me take it off and put it back on after one hour of glorious relief and freedom!
Boston braces are made of lightweight, rigid plastic that have corrective pads and cutouts to help minimize the curvature of the spine. The brace extended from my armpits to my pelvis (thoracic-lumbar-sacral orthosis or TLSO). My last brace was a bit different than the previous two; it opened in the front, was thinner, and seemed to have more flexibility (I think it was a Wilmington, although I don’t know for sure). However, it did not hold up well to my active lifestyle, and started breaking down, cracking, and pinching my skin. It was eventually held together with duct tape before being discarded after my surgery. Of all the braces, it was my least favorite. Ultimately, my scoliosis curve progressed despite wearing a brace and I needed surgery. But I’ll save the details of that for another post.
Until next time,