Crooked Path, Straight Vision

Written By: Gabrielle D'Alessandro

January 3, 2017

“You have a mild case of scoliosis, around 25 degrees in the main curve, and 15 degrees in the compensatory curve,” my doctor said. I glanced up, so confused by the image that glowed on the wall, like a star in the black night. Each square vertebra, a stark white contrast to the black void of the background. My anatomy knowledge told me that something was wrong with this scenery. My doctor carefully pointed to the ‘S’ shaped X-Ray that depicted my spine. Completely unfamiliar with all of the jargon he was using, my mind wandered.
That day at my appointment with the orthopedist, I could have never predicted the long and bewildering path that I was headed down. The usual treatment for scoliosis would entail wearing a bulky brace. However, my doctor did not suggest this treatment because I was almost finished growing, and my curve was right at the bracing point of 25 degrees. I was sent away disconcerted and ordered to return in six months. At my next appointment, the curve had increased to 30 degrees. Again, he did not suggest treatment. Even though the appointments were becoming an irritating blip in my routine, I was darkly amused each time I got to see my X-ray as my spine formed a snake-like shape. Quickly it morphed to 35 degrees, and then even 50. At this point, my doctor suggested a spinal fusion, a major surgery that rods the spine straight. My mother and I were speechless. I was told repeatedly that no treatment was necessary, and suddenly, I needed major surgery. I was at a loss for words having no clear plan for my spinal journey.
After that day, I became determined to discover more about the condition that was starting to seep into my daily life. Pain had become a constant. I did not know that there could be something so frustrating, yet fascinating. Scoliosis affects nearly three percent of America’s population, yet remains almost unknown. Essentially the only options for treatment are watching, bracing, or surgery. This makes me curious and makes me ask myself why are these options so restricted if so many people are affected with this disease? At first, my quest was to become a pediatric orthopedic surgeon specializing in spinal deformities in order to help children similar to me. But then I questioned myself. Why not do more? Why not go further? I became inspired to join current research to find the underlying causes of scoliosis and, ultimately, to find new treatments less drastic than braces or major surgery.
Because of my scoliosis, I have been able to spread awareness all over Savannah out of passion to prevent any person from ever having to go through the same confusing journey as well as raise money for scoliosis research to better understand the disease. Scoliosis has had an impact that I could have never predicted five years ago when I was first diagnosed. However, defined me into what I am and into the woman that I am today and will ultimately continue to contribute to who I will become.