Monday, 15 September 2014

Scoliosis - Diagnosis and Brace cast

I've thought long and hard about this blog post.

It's been written for a while and I just haven't got around to completing it. It's not because it's something that I wasn't sure about sharing, it's just that I wanted my girl to be completely comfortable with what is shared.  

A few months ago we started on a bit of a medical journey with Sibs. 

She and I have chatted about keeping some sort of a diary or some documentation about it all. We considered setting up another blog just for us and family and friends, but then it makes a bigger issue about what is essentially just another part of our story. So in the end we decided that we would keep a bit of a record here. So here it is - part 1, it's a bit wordy....

Towards the end of the Summer we noticed that Sibs had a slight difference in the contour of her back when she bent over to pick something up. She was wearing a swimsuit when I noticed it so her back was exposed and there was a definite unevenness between the left and right side. 

She told us there was no pain or discomfort, she was able to move and stretch so we parked it for a while with a promise to keep an eye on it.

A couple of months she mentioned that she had a pain in her neck so I immediately made an appointment with our GP to get it checked.

The GP asked a few questions and got Sibs to stand straight, put her palms together and slowly lean forward pointing her hands to the floor. 

A few measurements later and the GP advised that we needed some x rays to confirm a diagnosis of kypho scoliosis. (Basically, scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine. In Sibs's case it presents as an inverted S. Wikipedia can give a detailed description of what scoliosis is - HERE)

A couple of hours later the x rays were done, Sibs was back at school and I was on my way to work. 

Neil was away so I left a message for him - not to alarm him, I just thought that he needed to know how I had spent my Friday morning! When he got an opportunity to call back he told me that as he received my message he had just finished talking to a researcher who was working on a study of spinal deformity in children. How's that for a coincidence? Through this contact he immediately got some reassurances and secondly a recommendation of a local scoliosis consultant/spinal surgeon.

So it was back to the GP who then arranged a referral. Things can move pretty fast here, and within a week  I received a phone call with details of an appointment for more x rays and a consultation. 

The consultation was an examination, a confirmation of diagnosis of idiopathic adolescent scoliosis and a talk through some options. 

Dr A told us that the normal range of curvature of the spine is up to 10% and Sibs has a curve of 37% which he deemed to be moderate to severe. 

He didn't believe that surgery was necessary at this point so recommended a back brace. The idea being that as Sibs continues to grow the brace will prevent the curve progressing. It would not cure the problem, just hopefully stop the degree of curvature. 

At this point I have to say that my girl has just taken all of this in her stride. She has a natural positivity and I have been incredibly proud and inspired by her attitude. 

So next on the list of things to do was to organise to be fitted with a cast for a TLSO brace. ( a thoracolumbosacral orthosis brace) 

The orthopaedic clinic was highly efficient and called me to arrange a convenient time and so Sibs and I headed there one lunchtime. 

We were introduced to Gary who after some chit chat about Sibs's name gave her a number to remember. She was going to be number 6230 - that's how many braces Gary has made in his 45 year career. Impressive....

Next we were taken to a small room and I don't think it had actually changed in 45 years! 

Gary was more than happy for me to take photos, and he kept directing me to where he thought I would get the best shots.  (I had obviously checked with Sibs beforehand that she was ok with this.)

He explained the process - Sibs was to lie balancing on an elastic strap and he was going to wrap her torso in plaster, wait for it to set and cut it off to produce the cast. 

I had expected a rather more state of the art digital something or other, but he obviously knows what he's doing.

When he invited any questions, Sibs asked him what would happen if she fell off the table. I could see that she was weighing up the odds!

In reply, Gary told her that she would be the first to ever do so. I'm not so sure.....

Anyhow, she managed to get herself in position and apart from a small fit of the giggles survived the casting. 

She wore a bandage type body stocking and a thin piece of plastic similar to a ruler was placed under this. The plaster cast was then wrapped around her body. The giggles came as she got a little confused between her torso and her tummy and her pelvis and when Gary was asking her to move she was moving the wrong parts!

She lay there for a short while and then the cast was scored with a knife along the piece of plastic and then cut. After a quick clean up she was done.

So what do you do after such an appointment? Well you head out for a hot chocolate and a little treat whilst Gary sets to work on brace number 6230!

Next on the agenda - an MRI scan.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014


Last Thursday was a day of days!

In fact, the whole of last week was just 'one of those weeks'  with a few challenges on the work front and the juggling of roles.

It really got me thinking about this work - life balance thing.

A bit of a curve ball and all of a sudden it's chaos.

Let me share a little of my day...

Neil and I car shared last Thursday. He was spending most of the day at the Convention Centre near the city and I was back and fore between locations. I was in charge of picking up Sibs from after school care and he planned to get a cab home later on in the evening. We parked up and went our separate ways.

A few hours later I realised that he had the set of keys, or rather I realised that I had forgotten my keys... I tried to contact him and left a message to say I was heading into the city and would try and arrange a meeting point to pick them up.

Work was busy and I sort of forgot about it and set off on the bus to my next appointment.

I was just about to walk into a lecture theatre when my phone buzzed. Not wanting the distraction I decided to ignore it. Off it went again and this time I glanced down to see the words "SCHOOL" flashing back at me.

Cutting a long story short I had the conversation that went along the lines of  'you need to come and pick up your daughter she is injured'.

Oh heck!

I'm in the car is miles away.....(I don't have any keys anyway!!)...I'm now running late for a presentation.....I can't get hold of Neil....I can't get hold of my friend and neighbour....I'm actually walking around in a circle!!

A few minutes later my friend calls me back realising that if I'm ringing in the middle of the day on a work day that something is up. She says all of the right things - reassuring me that she can be at the school in 5 minutes and will call back if she needs to. Sooo grateful.

So off comes the mother hat and back on goes the work hat.

Of course my phone buzzes again about half an hour later!

This time it was Neil responding to my rather curt "answer your phone" text. (There were more words than that in my text, but I won't share them here!)

Once my presentation was over I gathered my things and grabbed a cab to take me to Sibs.

We took a gentle walk around the corner to get home and then of course  I remember that I had no keys to get into the house!

I didn't have to worry as the front door was wide open!

Yes, the perfect ending to a ****** day.

Do I go in or stay outside? Do I call someone? My thoughts were moving at speed and I couldn't really think straight. I ventured in as far as the hallway and had a quick look around - the computer, TV, ipad all seemed to be in place. It would appear that the front door had blown open as the Yale lock hadn't been secured that morning. Phew!

Panic over, I set about making sure that Sibs was OK. Warm bath, drink, hot water bottle, can she have ibuprofen? What's for dinner?

She got to bed and Twmff the cat (bless him) stayed by her side and gave her lots of purring cuddles.

I eventually sat down and that's all I wanted to do was get lost watching something mindless on TV.

No, that wasn't going to happen  - the TV decided that was the day it didn't want to co-operate.
I changed the batteries in the remote control - nothing,
I fiddled about with cables - nothing.
I googled the problem - nothing.

I gave up and went to bed.

A few days later I met up with a couple of mothers from the school who asked me where I was on Thursday night. It was only then that I remembered that I should have been at a meeting that night! One where I had a reasonable input. I didn't send any apologies or report - I just completely, absolutely forgot everything about it!

There were just too many hats to wear that day. Too many balls to juggle.

The tipping point of the scales is so minute when it comes to balancing roles.

 Life is not full of 'perfect moments'. Life is at times challenging and it does go wrong.

I've done the full time worker, I've done the full time mother and I'm currently doing the part time trying to balance everything scenario.

Nothing is perfect. Nothing works all of the time, and everything is temporary.

But I have to remember that one bad day is just that -

So it's almost Thursday again. Sibs is fine, there are checks in place to ensure that I always have my keys, and planned drop offs and pick ups have been worked out for the week.

Just to keep it real - the TV still isn't working - but that's OK. I can manage that one.