God Himself formed this vessel and He put a little twist to it. It is not mine to fix it; it is mine to fill the vessel… with everything beautiful, positive, pure and right ~ #scoliwarrioroffaith #vesseluntohonor
I have lived with scoliosis for half of my life. In 2004, my seatmate in secondary school casually mentioned that when I bent down, my back looked like that of another classmate who was known to have scoliosis. This classmate who had scoliosis was coincidentally one of my mum’s patients, so I also casually relayed my seatmate’s observation to my mum and she was terrified. I couldn’t make sense of the alarm my mum expressed then, but looking back now, I understand and appreciate the urgency and seriousness with which she handled the situation.
My mum, again coincidentally, was travelling to Singapore at that time, so she made inquiries about the orthotists/prosthetists in the country who could create a brace to prevent the progression of my spine curvature. Since I could not be in Singapore, there had to be a representation of me. My mum got an orthotist/technician in Ibadan to create a Plaster of Paris (POP) cast of my torso. The process of making the cast was the most exhausting thing I had encountered yet, mainly because of lack of the appropriate equipment to create one… I fainted in the process!
About a month after diagnosis I had my Singapore-made brace. It had a faulty design because it was made with the dimensions of the POP cast, which was wrongly done. I however didn’t have a choice than to use it, a lot of vacation change (money) had gone into it, plus the braces made in Lagos were “a no-no!” I had to wear this awfully uncomfortable mass of plastic that gave one of my shoulders an obvious tilt, under my school uniform. It caused unbearable heat, I had to wear baggy uniforms and it freaked the life out my friends and some unfortunate teachers who tried to spank or slap me on the back (tsk tsk!). In all honesty, I hated the brace and I began to hate myself for all the things I thought were wrong with me – scoliosis, skin issues, hair issues, and sight-blurring-migraine, name it!
I sadly outgrew my brace within 2 years and it became increasingly difficult to keep using it. My curve was not worsening but that meant nothing to me then as I was overwhelmed by the various forms of micro-aggressions and insensitivities I experienced from people around. I would never forget a photographer who was to take my passport photograph for my Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME). I went to the studio, not wearing the brace, as I usually did because I hated the attention it drew; the photographer said “what kind of a person are you with your uneven shoulders?… don’t blame me if the pictures don’t come out well”. I assume if he knew better he would not have said such to a teenager who was going through a self-esteem war.
I went to the university with my undersized brace, which I hardly used. An attempt to get an orthopedic hospital in Lagos to replicate the brace was futile as we were told that the hospital used jerry can plastic, which couldn’t achieve the desired resistance against the spine curvature. I felt relieved because I thought I wouldn’t ever have to use the brace again; I had learnt to consciously straighten my spine and I thought that would suffice for a lifetime. I took a six-year break from the brace. During the period I developed chronic lower back pain and it got worse as the years went by. I took a lot of analgesics, which eventually resulted in ulcer… sigh!
Fast forward to 2014, Nigeria was now producing good quality braces… not really actually. A US-trained Nigerian orthotist/prosthetist was making braces in the US for Nigerians. I got my new nocturnal braces from this prosthetist – I could wear it all day if I could, but it was important to wear it overnight but with the heat it was really tough to keep it on all night. I have used this brace for 3 years now wearing it for an average of 7 hours a day. My size is a lot more stable than during my teenage years, my pelvis and spine are “set”, my curve has not improved but it hasn’t worsened and the lower back pain is as present as air. I found a way around managing my spine but would you like to know the state of my mind?
It was in a big mess. I was angry, confused, pessimistic, defensive, aggressive and so forth; I was curved and bent all the way in my mind. This condition is idiopathic – it is not the mono-strap bags, school chairs nor the heavy load I carried on my head that causes scoliosis (rolls eyes); it just happens!!! Why me? Why scoliosis? Why would I have to deal with this much back pain and weird standing, sitting or sleeping posture forever? These questions still have not been fully answered but they nagged me for about 12 years. Something had to be wrong with me, I believed it, and I lived it out every day.
One day, out of the blues, my boss sent me a twitter handle to check out. We had no prior discussion about my back but that day was one hell of a day for me. I was in so much pain, yet I couldn’t take any strong analgesics because I didn’t want to get ulcer again; I was so sad and I began to ask God questions; if this thing won’t go away what am I supposed to do with it? I opened the URL my boss sent to me and read about the group called Beyond a Curved Spine (BaCS). I thought to just follow the group passively but I decided to call and meet one of the founders and this move changed my from then on.
I realized that I had been blessed with gifts of early detection and appropriate treatment/therapy. I realized a lot of other people have it far worse that me, yet they have found their happy places and are thriving therein. I have grown to love my little (almost invisible) side hunch and all other imperfections; I prefer to call them marks of difference. So far, I have not been fully engaged with the team mostly because of time and distance, but I have drawn a great deal of strength from the people I have met physically and virtually. From BaCS, I have learnt that keeping a positive attitude to life is the biggest form of healing one can get. Today I am proud to be part of the movement to make scoliosis common knowledge in Nigeria, to advocate improved treatments and to help those who live with it lead better and enjoyable lives.