before and after clinical photos of Nathan
I’m Nathaniel, 17 years of age from Lipa Batangas Philippines. Turning 14 years old and I was Grade 9, when my parents noticed a lump on the right side of my spine that would rise up and kind of roll when I bent forward. It was also a year of discovery, at least as far as my health was concerned.
Papa made an appointment with our pediatrician. It all happened so fast. In March 2016, almost at the end of Grade 9, x-rays revealed that I had a thoracic curve from T5 to T11 measuring 65 degrees and a Thoracolumbar curve from T12 to L4 measuring 32 degrees. It was official, and at the age of 14, I was diagnosed with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, meaning that my spine was shaped like an “S”. It was the first time, I heard the word! I was told I would have to be fitted for and wear a back brace to try and prevent the curve advancing.
So off to the brace maker we went. To be fitted for a brace you have to lie on a table and be wrapped in cold wet gauze. You have to lie still until the mixture dries. It is not an easy thing to do, nor is it very uncomfortable. A few weeks later, we picked up the brace. I was fitted for a brace, which I was told to wear for 23 and a half hours a day. My half hour showers were the highlight of my day. It fit tightly around my stomach and closed in the back with leather buckles in an attempt to straighten my spine. It was so uncomfortable! Oh and it wasn’t bad enough that it was uncomfortable but it was embarrassing too!
Unfortunately, the brace didn’t stop the curves from growing. I was x-rayed every six months. At each doctor’s visit, I felt my stomach drop and the room spin as I heard the news that my scoliosis was progressing despite the brace. By the time I was in tenth grade, my Thoracic curve had also progressed to 90 degrees, while the Thoracolumbar curve was up to 55 degrees.
My parents never stopped searching for what to do with my Scoliosis until one day they found “Scoliosis Philippines Support Group” headed by Ms. Amanda Glenda Bonife-Kiamko through Facebook. Scoliosis Philippines Support Group promotes awareness and provides support to those Scoliosis patients like me. It aims to inspire, empower and give hope. June 30, 2018, we attended Scoliosis Awareness Month in Philippine Rehabilitation Institute, they have free consultation during the event and by that time one of the Specialist from Philippine Orthopedic Center told that my curve is not for bracing anymore. Surgery was recommended. I remember my Papa and Mommy crying then I started to cry. It was a very scary time for me. You never see your parents cry so I knew this was not going to be good.
Through the advice of Ms. Amanda, we applied as a beneficiary of The Duncan Tree Foundation, (founded and headed by Ms. Ouida Duncan) a non-profit organization serving the medical needs of the poor and vulnerable in selected countries and among local population groups. And it’s a big surprise that after a month of filing, Southern Philippines Medical Center emailed us, inviting to do Pre-surgical Assessment in Davao City. August 2018 we flew to Davao for my assessment. This assessment gave me so much hope that one day my life will go back to normal as before.
The long wait is over, June 30, 2019 Southern Philippine Medical Center texted my parents that I am one of the lucky applicants of “The Duncan Tree Foundation” and they were expecting us to fly again to Davao in preparation of my surgery. July 10, 2019, we arrived in Davao City for the second time and this is more exciting by this time because I know it’s a new ME when we go back to Batangas.
My surgery was scheduled on July 22, 2019 and I was filled with fear and worry. I researched spinal fusion surgery and read other patients’ stories online. I was encouraged by their testimonials to think positively and to visualize myself as healthy and vibrant after surgery. I also read about the importance of being in great physical shape before surgery. I jogged around my neighborhood to build endurance, clear my mind and practice my positive affirmations To prepare for my scoliosis surgery, I had to get standard blood work done, chest X-ray and MRI. The MRI, not so much! Being put in a big tube was not my favorite moment! I was so scared. I remember they let my mom hold my hand as I was placed deeper into the tube. I had to hold still and had earphones on. In the tube I was good, because I had to be, but I was so very scared! I remember tears rolling down my cheeks and the back of my head getting wet. As I came out everyone told me how very brave I was but I sure didn’t feel that way.
On the outside I seemed fine but on the inside, I was scared to death! I had my entire family with me. Before being taken into surgery I was hooked up to all these electrodes that would be used to make sure all my nerves remained intact during surgery. I looked like a science fiction character. It was at this point I broke down. I started, what we call in my family, “the ugly cry”. My parents were holding my hand and they started to cry too. They are both crying and both scared. My mom gave me some quick kisses and words of love. After a nurse gave me some medication, I started feeling more and more relaxed and then my memory faded. I don’t remember anything after that. According to my parents, the surgery took a total of eight hours.
I woke up in the recovery room with my family all around me. I know my mom and dad spent the night because they’re always there. My eyes were so puffy that it was difficult to see them, but I felt so much better that I know they’re in my side. It is funny the things I remember. The very next day physical therapy came to get me up to a chair. I know they got me up in a chair but I have no idea how they did it. Once on the floor, things started to get harder because physical therapy has you up and out twice a day walking down the hall. I didn’t want to get up and move, I just wanted to lay in bed. I also needed to start eating. I had no appetite and all my family wanted me to do was eat. My dad just kept saying eat, eat, eat I was getting sick of it and just didn’t want to eat.
It was at this time I was told I was going to get to go home. I was very excited to get out the door and go home. The day had finally come and I could be discharged. There is nothing better than being told you can now go home! It wasn’t to sleep in my own bed or be home with my family. Once home, the days sort of blurred together at first. I would get up, get cleaned up, and get my back dressing changed. Taking the tape off my back to change the dressing hurt a lot. I seemed to have sensitively to the tape which made it hard to peel off without taking skin off. It took me a while to get an appetite. I knew I had to eat well because I had a lot of healing to do. I was sure to eat lots of protein and calcium. Even if I didn’t really feel like eating I was sure to get the right food groups needed to promote healing.
I also started physical therapy after I got home. Most of my therapy consisted of helping my ability to move, improving my functional ability strengthening and flexibility. The work was hard, but my physical therapists were so nice. The fact that I wanted to work hard made the process easier. My parents kept telling me there would be a light at the end of the tunnel and as therapy went on, I found that to be true.
My surgeon was right. Spinal fusion surgery didn’t limit me physically at all. In fact, it made me stronger both physically and mentally and it really boosted my self-confidence. I set my mind towards several goals, including graduating Senior High School class and attending Lyceum of the Philippines, (Batangas) as an Engineer.
My life changing story couldn’t be possible without the help of my ANGELS, Ms. Amanda Glenda Bonife- Kiamko who never left us until the end of our journey. She’s always there for us to support in all aspects. And to Ms. Ouida Duncan, No words can describe how blessed, thankful and grateful we are. You are the answer to our prayers over the past years. I will be thankful to both of you until the rest of my life. Also to Southern Philippines Medical Center, especially to Orthopedic Department, thank you for taking care of me and the rest of the Beneficiaries and treating us like one of your family. Most of all to my loving family who supported me 100%. I will be forever thankful for giving me another LIFE. Thank you for this wonderful journey.
This is my story and I want to help any other scoliosis warriors out there. I understand the pain you go through but you have to realize just how strong you really are. Yes there are still days where I wish I could bend my back like loads of people take for granted but I was chosen to be like this and I'm happy. I want to show you that even with a medical condition you can still be beautiful. We are all beautiful. I want to take you with me on this journey and I will keep you all updated on what is to come. If you have a scoliosis story to share I would love to hear it. I want to empower the scoliosis community.
Bent, Not Broken.
before and after X-rays (frontal)