My name is Alex and I am 17 years old. I developed idiopathic scoliosis several years ago. My parents tried less invasive approaches like bracing and chiropractic exercises before considering surgery, but nothing seemed to help and my curve got worse over time. By the time we had our first consult with Dr. Betz, in December, 2014, my curve had progressed to 67-degrees. Given that my bone age studies suggested that I had plenty of growth left, Dr. Betz felt I was a perfect candidate for the non-fusion procedure, which uses surgical cording instead of rods.[su_ffvbtbox]
Of course, my parents were very excited at the prospect that I would be straighter and healthier. They were never fans of the traditional fusion-type surgeries. In fact, they have friends whose daughter had rods fused to her spine and her recovery period was 6 months as opposed to what Dr. Betz said would only be approximately 6 weeks of down time before being cleared for normal activity. He said the possible reduction would bring my curve down to approximately 18-degreees.
During the time between that initial consultation and the scheduling of the surgery, I was both excited about the prospect of being straighter and healthier, but at the same time I was growing more uncomfortable. I often felt discomfort and also became more self-conscious about my appearance. I became less active and stopped skiing and playing lacrosse.
In mid-February, we learned my surgery was scheduled for April 22 at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Just receiving that news was very exciting. At last, we had a date that would change my life forever. In late February, we met with Dr. Betz again and this time with the Director, Dr. Antonacci, and Joel Gorenstein, the PA assigned to my case, as well. During this consultation they more thoroughly explained the pre-op requirements (very few; only some basic lab work, a pulmonary function test and surgical clearance from my pediatrician), the procedure itself, including the team that would be present and assisting in the OR, and the post-op. They said I’d go to PICU for 2-3 days and in the hospital overall for 4-5 days. They were very reassuring and made me and my parents feel very at ease, confident, and comfortable.
We arrived in NYC two days before the surgery to settle in. On the day of the surgery, we walked to the hospital since our hotel was so close. We met Joel at the hospital check-in area shortly after 7:00am and he, as usual, had all details taken care of and ready to go. Doctors Betz and Antonacci visited with us shortly after that and again reassured us that the surgery would go well. One more time they reviewed the surgery with me and my parents and reassured us that the end-result would be terrific.
The surgery did go as planned. The doctors met with my parents afterwards and discussed how well the surgery went and how hard they worked to get the best result. They wound up also performing a discectomy so they could further reduce the curve and remove the rib hump that was a result of my twisted spine. By day two, I was beginning to feel someone normal as the anesthesia wore off, but I was still on some good pain medicines that made me comfortable. It was later on Day 2 that I stood for the first time and was able to see in the mirror how straight I was. My shoulders were still a bit crooked, but that was the result of years of the scoliosis. From the very beginning, the doctors noted that my shoulders might be uneven for a time, but they also assured us that this issue would correct itself over time as the brain realized that I was no longer crooked.
By the end of day three, I was totally disconnected from all tubes and intravenous. On Day 4 after the surgery they moved me to a regular hospital room. And early on Day 5 I was discharged. All in all, the hospital stay was pretty easy. I experienced very little discomfort. I was visited daily by the physical therapist who told me how to move and get up out of bed. Drs. Antonacci, Betz, and Cuddihy, visited daily as well and was very helpful and kind. And lastly, the PICU nurses were phenomenal – so attentive and fun. It also didn’t hurt to have my mom stay with me 24/7 to make sure everything went well.
We left New York City on Monday, staying overnight in NJ for our Tuesday morning follow up at the Lawrenceville, NJ office. Drs. Antonacci, Betz, and Cuddihy were all there, as was Joel. All were pleased with my results and recovery. My curve was down to 20-degrees and Dr. Betz said that once my shoulders dropped and evened out and as I grow a bit more, he believed that my final curve would be somewhere in the 10-degree range. By the way, I’m also now 2” taller than I was in late December when I first met with Dr. Betz.
During the first week at home, I’ve taken it easy, but my parents make sure that I get up and around often, including taking several walks each day. I’m already up to walking one mile and that’s only 10 days after surgery. The doctors check in every few days by texting my parents, which is very comforting to them. I will head back to school soon and I can’t wait to take off my shirt and show off my new straight spine. I would enthusiastically recommend this surgery to anybody that had scoliosis. The surgery is a real game-changer. Thank you Drs. Antonacci, Betz, and Cuddihy.