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Catherine Pelley

Walk My World Learning Event #5

4 min read


 For this week's learning event we were asked to share an obstacle or turning point in our lives. This past summer I had spinal fusion surgery to correct my scoliosis. I have struggled with this condition for my entire life, but it didn't really start to interfere with my life until I was eleven years old. This was when my curvature started to become noticeable so my pediatrician referred me to a scoliosis specialist at Yale. At my first, and only appointment with him, I was told that my curvature was so bad that I would need to be put in a back brace until I was completely done growing. This was supposed to help stop my curvature from increasing so that I would not need surgery. I was a cheerleader and I knew that if I was put in a back brace I would never be able to continue doing the sport that I loved so much. My mom agreed so she did hours of research and found the top rated pediatric orthopedist in the country, Dr. Eberson. After pulling a few strings she was finally able to get me an appointment with him so that we could get a second opinion. The only problem was that he worked out of Hasbro Children's hospital in Providence, RI, three hours away from my home in Hamden, CT. That didn't stop my mom from ensuring that I saw the best possible doctor. After meeting with him for the first time he told me that I was eligible for the "Providence back brace" that he and a colleague created. It was a back brace that only had to be worn when I slept so I could continue doing everything that I normally did. Although I didn’t want a brace at all, this news was certainly better than the first. I wore the providence back brace every night for three years. My curvature didn’t improve, but it didn’t get any worse either.

My scoliosis never really bothered me. It was just there. I was a cheerleader for ten years and was more flexible than any of my teammates. When I graduated high school, however, my back began to ache every day. The pain was so bad during my freshman year of college that whenever I wasn’t working or going to classes I was at home with a heating pad pressed against my spine. It became so painful that I knew something was wrong. I went to Providence, RI to meet with my doctor hoping that my curvature wasn’t starting to increase all of a sudden. The news was good. My curvature was stable, but the pain that I was feeling was because of the stress that my curve was putting on my back muscles. I was told that the only way to fix this was to have corrective surgery which would require attaching two steel rods to my spine through spinal surgery.

I had no idea how I’d be able to have surgery and continue going to school without taking any time off, but somehow I managed to do it. I had surgery as soon as classes got out last spring, and spent all of summer break recuperating. Fall semester was tough because I was still in a lot of pain, but I managed not to miss a single class and made it onto the Dean’s list.


Having spinal surgery has definitely been the hardest obstacle that I have ever had to overcome. I feel so much happier now that I am no longer in pain, and am so blesses to have such a devoted mother who made sure that I had nothing but the absolute best care.  I never would have been able to get through this without her.