12 years of age at surgery

As I turned 12 years old and about to start high school, my grandmother offered to sew my school uniform. As I stood before my grandmother, she asked me to stand up straight. I responded, “I am”. She put her hands on my shoulders and tried to make me stand straight whilst she did the hem on my dress. She then turned me around to look at the back of me and realised I had a large lump on my right rib cage area. She rubbed the area several times and the lump did not move. It was more what I describe as a hump and still to this day refer to it as my hump.

My parents, then notified about the hump that was discovered, called the doctor and I attended my first appointment. The GP was totally perplexed and requested I see a spinal specialist urgently. The doctors in our local area were not equipped at the time to diagnose what was happening to me, and so I was sent to a medical centre in the city of Sydney.

The doctor in the city medical centre organised for x-rays and a referral to a specialist. He explained to my family that urgent surgery needed to take place as I was now diagnosed with scoliosis and treatment needed to start straight away.

I was placed into hospital where I had the first surgery of pins placed above my knees and a steel halo screwed into my head. Ropes were attached to the halo and pins and weights attached to help ‘stretch’ me out for the next few weeks. After the excruciating pain I suffered during the stretching phase it was time for my surgery.

I don’t remember much about the day of surgery. I woke in intensive care where I spent about a week before going to the ward. I was told I now had a ‘Harrington Rod’ and nuts and bolts holding me together. Forty-four years later I still have the rod and all the bolts.

I spent 12 months off school in a plaster cast. I wasn’t allowed to sit, only lay down or stand.
I attended many visits to my surgeon through the year who was happy with my progress and approximately 7 months later the plaster jacket was removed.

After surgery I went about my life fairly normally and went on to not only have 3 children but I became a marathon runner and I hold the record for the most marathons run by a female in a calendar year in Australia (67 in total). As of March 2023, I’ve now run 347 marathons.

Scoliosis was devastating for me as a 12 year old girl but now it’s my best friend and I have missed out on nothing in my life.