My journey started when I decided to undergo surgery, in an attempt to help reduce the pain I was suffering from scoliosis (identified when I was 12 years old). I stayed active as a ballerina in a small company without too much pain into my 20’s. Now in my 30’s, the larger curve had increased to 74 degrees and the pain had become unbearable. The decision was difficult because my husband and I have 3 young children and I knew this would be a long road. But the everyday tasks were too difficult. It was hard to stand, walk or sit for more than 10 min. I’m not a person who likes to complain, most of my coworkers didn’t even know how much pain I was in until I said I was having surgery. The difficult decision was made to have a four level spinal fusion to try to relieve some of the pain.
Once the surgery was complete, the next chapter started. I had to use a walker at home. I spent 18 months, 24 hours a day, in a hard plastic TLSO brace from chest to hips. No bending, twisting or lifting over 5 pounds was allowed, which meant I couldn’t pick up my then 3 year old son. I’m so grateful to have had the incredible support of my husband, family, and friends along the way. By the time I was 6 months out from surgery, progress was slow. So I had to start daily injections and wore a bone growth stimulator 24 hours a day, because the fusion wasn’t healing as fast as expected. I’m a dedicated nurse of 15 years and almost lost my job twice because of physical restrictions. I fought hard to keep my nursing career at the hospital and regain my strength.
Once my fusion was fully healed I was able to start physical therapy – and I couldn’t just go to anyone after all I’d been through. A friend of mine who worked in the medical field told me to go to Twin Cities Orthopedics in Eagan and to see Christian Dawson. He was the best person to see for spinal rehabilitation. I saw 2 other people at different facilities while I waited to get an appointment with him. After the first visit I had with Christian I knew he was the right fit and he would be able to help get me to where I needed to be. I trusted him with my health. We worked together to test my limits and pushed me past the fears and doubt, building my strength and confidence.
I had to wean out of the brace slowly and I am proud to say that I am now out of my brace all together, not even wearing it at work anymore. My pain is so much better now then prior to surgery and continues to improve as I become stronger. I can do normal everyday things and I’m back to regular exercise even taking a barre pilates class at TCO. I still continue to see Christian a couple times a month because building muscle after such a long period of time in a TLSO brace takes time. I feel stronger and more confident everyday thanks to TCO and Christian’s encouragement. It’s hard work, but my determination and dedication will help me get back to a normal happy healthy life.