Meet Maya: How Spinal Fusion Surgery Gave her Renewed Strength

When Maya, an active, sporty 14-year-old, was diagnosed with Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis, she did not know what to expect. No one in her family had scoliosis, and she had never heard of it. All she knew was that her debilitating pain and discomfort from her twisted body finally made sense.

Almost immediately after her diagnosis, Maya was fitted for a brace and tasked with wearing it 23 hours a day to combat her curves. Getting used to her brace was challenging at times, but Maya eventually learned to love the comfort it provided her.

“Wearing a brace was really hard. I couldn’t get comfortable and didn’t like thinking about my curved back, but I got used to the stiff “hug” of my brace that went everywhere with me.

For one and a half years, Maya gallantly wore her brace and did physical therapy to fight her curves and prevent surgery. During this time, her family moved across the globe, where she continued her treatment. But just over nine months after moving, Maya got the news that she hoped never to hear: she needed surgery. 

Maya’s family quickly moved back to Charlotte, NC, where she met with neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Bohl, who performed her spinal fusion surgery in June of 2022.

Spinal Fusion Surgery

Spinal fusion surgery is the most common treatment for severe scoliosis in adolescents. It is used to correct the curvature of the spine, prevent further movement, stabilize the spine, and reduce pain.

The surgery connects two or more bones in the spine, where bone grafts (small pieces of bone or bone-like material) are placed in between the abnormal vertebrae, encouraging the bones to fuse together – almost like a broken bone. Surgeons also attach metal hooks, rods, and screws to the abnormal part of the spine to stabilize it in an upright position.

Maya’s spine was fused from T4 to L4 with two titanium rods and 26 screws.

Finding Strength in Recovery

After surgery, Maya felt like a completely new person.

“I woke up from my operation four inches taller, absolutely aligned, and undeniably curveless. It was incredible.”

Unfortunately, her recovery was challenging and took over a year, where she lost much of her strength and often felt alone.

“There were a lot of times where I questioned myself, doubted my efforts, and was terrified of my scoliosis progressing.”

But Maya had never been one to quit easily. Having already fought a hard battle with scoliosis, she did not want to give up on a chance to have a more normal life. Through patience, commitment, and the hope of feeling free again, Maya persevered.

“I’ve been motivated to keep pushing myself and doing physical therapy by looking forward to doing the things I love: being active, playing sports, and regaining a sense of my former self, pain-free and not weighed down by scoliosis.”

Slowly, Maya met many exciting milestones, like climbing the stairs and submerging her scar underwater. Eventually, she was healed enough to run, jump, and play sports again.

One year post-surgery, Maya celebrated her “spine-iversary,” where she could finally look back on all of the challenges she had faced with pride and a renewed sense of confidence.

Championing patients on their journey: Giving Back 

Maya wants other kids battling scoliosis to know that even though scoliosis can be scary and unpredictable, it does not define their capabilities.

“Don’t let wearing a brace or being fused with titanium rods stop you from doing what you love and what makes you happy. Yes, there will be times when the brace prevents you from moving much or recovering from surgery slows you down, but the time will come when that doesn’t happen anymore.”

Maya’s strength in recovery came from looking forward to doing the things that she loves again, but she knows that finding hope is easier said than done—especially when scoliosis can feel lonely. That’s why, when Maya discovered Higgy Bears, she knew she had to share them with other kids facing the challenges of scoliosis.

Higgy Bears are scoliosis-inspired stuffed animals with scoliosis braces and spinal fusion scars. Maya said these bears offered her comfort and helped her feel less alone.

“I think having a stuffed animal that looks like you can make having scoliosis even a little bit easier and less scary.”

Now healed and stronger than ever, Maya wants to make sure every kid who is struggling with scoliosis can find comfort and encouragement in Higgy Bears.

“I want to give Higgy Bears to kids with scoliosis to inspire them not to give up and know they aren’t alone in facing the challenges scoliosis presents.”

Through Higgy Bears and hope, Maya can now do many of the things she loves and has found a renewed sense of identity.

“My experience with scoliosis makes me feel like I can overcome anything. I have become an even stronger, resilient person because of what I’ve been through.”

Support Higgy Bears

Want to make a difference in the lives of children battling scoliosis? Consider donating to Higgy Bears, the organization that provides comfort and encouragement to kids facing the challenges of scoliosis. Your contribution can bring smiles and support to those who need it most.

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Ready to take control of your spinal health journey? Schedule your appointment online today and explore your options for treatment and recovery.

This content is for informational and educational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your doctor. New and current patients can call our offices to make an appointment or request an appointment online.

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