Amy Lao: “My Story”
As I remembered, it’s around the year 1998, my parents found my uneven shoulder and back, so they brought me to the public health centre in Macau to find out what’s happening. And from the X-Ray screening, I was diagnosed with Scoliosis. At that time, it was just at the beginning stage of it. And the doctor ask me to have followed up in the hospital, as time went by, the “degree” in the curvature in the spine is getting worse quicker than what the doctor thought (maybe due to the cause of Neurofibromatosis, yes I was born with it with no family history)
Around the Christmas in 1999, it was the first time that I met up with Professor Luk, he read the X-Ray and MRI scanning that I had, and said that the curvature was getting worse and there was a twist too. So he arranged to have further check-up in Queen Mary Hospital.
In February, 2000, we have done different types of check up in the hospital. And Prof. Luk said due to the severity, the normal spine surgery might not help a lot, so I was admitted again in the late February to have the another type of surgery called ” halo pelvic traction”, which a metal ring was secured with 4 screws into the outer dipole of my skull and two long metal rods in the pelvis to secure the pelvic rings. And there were another 4 rods connected from the skull screws to the pelvic ring.
A few days after this surgery, everyday, the doctors/ nurse need to loosen the spring in the rods to extend their length. (This is to loosen the tissue and ligaments in the spine and decrease its curvature). This period was around 3 months till to the elastic limit where the spine can’t extend anymore. During those 3 months, I couldn’t rotate my upper body like normal people did. And it caused more and more pain when the rods extended more and more, the pain comes from the neck and skull. Luckily, the pain killer works to minute the pain. Also, during that period of time, I needed to sleep in a cushion bed which was full of pillows as there were so many metal rods in my outer body. In those 3 months, the doctors and nurses really helped a lot, they would cheer you up when you are down and depressed. And there were social workers to help you too.
In June, I got another two surgeries, one to remove the halo pelvic metals and the other to implant 3 metals rods to the spine to fix the curvature. When you wake up from the anaesthesia, you would gradually feel pain in the back, as it wasn’t a simple surgery, but there is a button on the intravenous drip and you can press it to have the medication to stop your pain. The nurses also help you to rotate your body in the bed to prevent decubitus ulcers.
After the surgeries, it took lots of strength to stand up with the “cage”, and I needed to learn how to walk properly again. I thank the physiotherapists for their help as I also need to learn the right method to get up and lay down on the bed too. Furthermore, I needed bracing for another half year; with the bracing, it’s really uncomfortable in summer as it will make you sweat a lot, and it also limit the degree you can bend you back. (but I think it’s good as it can correct your bad posture).
To all who read this, before the surgeries, I was easily tired and felt back pain easily, and people would look at you strangely because of the way you walk and because your back is different from normal people. Surgery really helps a lot, it let me “grow” taller. There was no more back pain, and I could stand and walk a lot longer than before. Most importantly, I can chase my dream. As scoliosis will influence our respiratory system and urinary system when the curvature gets worse, the best way is to find a doctor when you find uneven shoulders or pelvis on yourself or your kids. It is important to get a diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible, as during adolescence, it gets worse much quicker than you think. Don’t worry if you need surgery, it wasn’t a great deal and it will lead you back to a normal life just like what I am now, being a doctor myself and with a family with children.