Monday, June 13, 2011

You Can Do it, Put Your Back (Brace) Into It

I have a lot of stories, I guess. After I wrote that post about shaving my head, I realized I have plenty of interesting stories to tell - and what better outlet?

This is the story of the time I was a turtle.

I'm not kidding, really. Of course, I was never an ACTUAL turtle (sad), but I had a lot in common with them - namely, a hard outer shell. At age 10, I had x-rays to determine whether I had bronchitis. "Well, you don't have bronchitis," the doctor told me, "but you do probably need a back brace."My scoliosis was so severe & my spine was so twisted that if it wasn't addressed, I could expect to be deformed by... well, age 26 or so. (Cue retrospective gratitude.)

Less like this...
If you've ever read Judy Blume's "Deenie" or seen Rumer Willis in "The House Bunny" (wow, those two references are different...), you probably have a mental image of nerdy, glasses-wearing, stringy-haired me wearing a metal contraption complete with headgear. Though having a back brace sucked, I was fortunate enough that by 1996, technology had advanced such that headgear has never been a part of my life, & at no point could you stick magnets to my torso.

The crappy parts of wearing a back brace were as follows:

  • I started sixth grade, the time when two area elementary schools came together for the first time, as The Girl With the Back Brace. In case middle school isn't difficult enough.

  • I had to wear it 23/7, which left me just an hour sans plastic, designated for showering. At this time, my home was not air-conditioned, so I spent summer nights sleeping in sausage casing in 90-degree weather. Ideal, I know.

  • The brace sometimes squeaked when I breathed, which was particularly awkward during tests & in homeroom, when absolute silence was required. Though I often used this as an excuse to request that I be allowed to remove my brace (rebel!), my homeroom teacher instead asked me to sit in the lab, sequestered from the rest of the class, so I could squeak in solitude.

  • There were airholes in the brace, designed to help keep me stay comfortable (ha). My friends, the tricky, middle-school-aged devils they were, memorized the locations of these finger-sized holes &... stuck their fingers in them. And their pencils. (This sounds sadder than it is, I swear. They are still my friends.)

  • I had a bad habit of getting my armput region stuck between my brace &... whatever else was around. My bed, the wall, class desks, you get it. This resulted in constant bruising of my back-fat area (though I was, at age 12, thin enough to be sans back-fat - ah, those were the days). Also, rashes. Enough said.

  • I've fallen & I can't get up. No, um, really. I once fell on the ice & slid underneath my mom's van & had to do my best not to choke & die on fumes while I waited for my mom to discover me & help me up. So back to that turtle reference. Get it now?

...& more like this.
In 1996, my orthopedist determined that my back brace wasn't working. COOL! A year in a back brace for no reason! Over holiday break, I underwent spinal fusion surgery to surgically straighten my spine, thus banishing the back brace to the corners of my closets &, eventually, to the trash can.

I'm straight now, mostly, though I have a two-&-a-half foot scar & still suffer from chronic back pain. Perhaps most astonishingly, the Girl With the Back Brace turned out to be pretty normal, not a traumatized former freak of nature. I can't say I remember that back brace fondly, but in some twisted (no pun intended) way, I'm thankful for the experience. How many people can say they've literally come out of their shell?

But I still hate turtles. Those bastards.
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