Scoliosis,  Spines & Livers & Bones, Oh My!

I’ve Come A Long Way, Baby

Sometimes it’s easy to dwell on the bad things that are going on in your life and forget to be grateful for the good things. This year over the MLK holiday I was at the lake with my family, and I was able to walk with the boys almost everywhere they wanted to explore. I was extremely thankful for that because it hasn’t always been this way.

I was in very different circumstances two years ago. In January 2004 I went to NYC to undergo a complicated spine surgery. I stayed up there a month, part of the time in the hospital and part of the time in an apartment recovering enough so that I could fly home. Both of my sisters were there and several of my friends flew up at different times to help Bill take care of me.

I’d been through spine surgery before in 1980. That’s when I had Harrington Rods put in to stop my scoliosis from getting any worse. (If you click that link, my back looked the most like Figure 7C after my first surgery.) I was in 7th grade. I had vivid memories of that procedure, especially the fact that I would not be able to raise my arms for a while after surgery. So in preparation for Spine Surgery 2004 I chopped all my hair off because I knew I wouldn’t be able to deal with it for a while.

Here is a picture of me the day before the operation:


Here is a picture of me about six days later. I’m not smiling quite so much anymore, am I?


Once I left the hospital, we went to the apartment I had sublet. It was cheap because no one wants to be in New York when the weather looks like this:


My Artistic Friend had decorated the apartment before my arrival so I’d feel at home.


This is how I looked most of the time. When we needed some excitement, everyone would gather around and shout encouragement while I’d grunt and groan and turn over on my other side and lie that way for a few hours.


Later someone would go down the street to Eli’s to get me some soup. Inevitably they’d come back raving about the store and the huge Wall of Soups– all homemade– I had to choose from. My favorites were the matzoh ball and the chicken and vegetable. It was my greatest desire to go to Eli’s and see the place myself.


Next I am going to show a picture of my incision, so you should skip over it if you’re not one for gore. Notice how I managed to show the full incision yet hide my crack? It took us a while to get this photo exactly right, but then again, we had nothing better to do. I’d already turned over that day.

298721502105_0_ALB (the scissors are purely coincidental; they have nothing to do with the incision)

Each day I would take my pain medication and then take a bath. A close friend will shave your armpits for you if you can’t move your arms enough to do it yourself. I am lucky enough to have four very close friends.

They even did their best to make me look beautiful, but I didn’t give them much to work with.


The Voice of Reason sent me a gift of some great dish towels decorated with painted flowers. For some reason my friends and I decided I would look great if I wore one on my head. We were going for a quirky look. At the time I thought I looked like a cute, carefree hippie.


Clearly the painkillers were affecting my judgment. I was taking lots of Oxycodone, so I can see how I committed this fashion faux pas. What I can’t understand is why my “friends” let me look like this and assured me I looked awesome.

It took me a little while to feel well enough to even want to venture out of the apartment. Once I was feeling better, though, I was ready to hit the town.

Look at me! I made it down the block and across the street to Eli’s! I got to see the famous “Wall O’ Soup” in person.


A lady came up and told us no pictures were allowed so I had to smack her with my cane. Then we took this picture and got the hell out of there. (I swear there was a scene from “Sex and the City” filmed here. Maybe I just needed a permit to take the picture legally).

My friend wheeled me home and we had a feast!


MMmm, lunchtime! That’s some delicious Boost in the cup with the bendy straw. Unless it’s prune juice. Also notice the yellow and black Grabber. It works just as well as they say on the infomercials.

Having surgery will turn you into an old lady quick.

After a couple of weeks, the boys flew up to see me. They were completely confused by the absence of grass in the big city.

big boys

“I KNOW there’s a backyard here somewhere.”

They went to the ESPN Zone, the Museum of Natural History and went
sledding in Central Park. The best part was our family journey to Dylan’s Candy Bar.



The boys went home and I stayed another week so I could check in with my surgeon, Dr. Jean-Pierre Farcy. Notice that I am standing unassisted and smiling once again!


He looked at my X-rays and cleared me to go home to Alabama. I spent the next several months doing physical therapy. Here I am doing exercises at the lake.


Since then, I’ve been working hard to get back in decent shape. In January of 2005 I was able to return to Jazzercise (which of course, is a much cooler activity than you think). I can stand up at parties and walk without leaning over. I rarely have to take pain meds.

But I really knew I had recovered when we went out west this summer and I did this:

ranch05 037

I’m pretty sure this is not on Dr. Farcy’s list of recommended activities, but I don’t spend much time on a horse, despite what you may think about people in Alabama. I prefer to travel by minivan.