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The Little Girl With A Big Struggle

Being diagnosed with a medical condition is a scary thing for anyone, but at the age of thirteen, it can be terrifying.  The diagnosis and treatment of scoliosis come with its own method for things to be done and its own obstacles. For me, there were three parts; the diagnosis, the treatment and the opportunities.

When I first found out I had scoliosis I was in the seventh grade and my middle school did screenings on every student to make sure they were growing appropriately. When they got to me and checked my back the nurse did not say anything, I was just given a piece of paper. It said that I should go get my back looked at. My first check was at the beginning of seventh grade, about a month after I got checked at school. The orthopedist confirmed that I had scoliosis, but told my mother and I that it was not bad enough to do anything yet. I went back to the doctor every three months to get x-rays of my back to see if I was still growing.  As long as I continued to grow my back continued to get worse. In the summer before my eighth grade year, my degree of scoliosis had worsened and I was told that I would need to wear a back brace. This was terrifying because we were told that if the brace did not work then I would need to have surgery. I was fitted for the back brace about a month later.  I remember having to lie down on a hard peg board with multiple holes and having pegs placed extremely close to my sides.  The entire process was terribly uncomfortable.  Measurements were taken and sent off to have the brace made.  The hardest part of this was learning how to put it on and how it should feel.  That way if it did not feel like it did when the doctor put it on then I knew that it was not on correctly.  The doctor who fitted me for the brace also gave me special shirts to wear under the brace so there would not be any wrinkles which would have made it even more uncomfortable than it already was.  Unfortunately, the shirts were not a material that was cool; they were very thick and made me sweat a lot. The one good thing about the brace was when I got to decide the design.  I chose zebra.

The first couple of nights in the back brace were miserable.  Since I only had to wear it at night I didn’t have much time to get used to it before I tried to sleep.  I remember being in constant pain throughout the night.  I woke up two or three times crying because it hurt my side.  My mom put pillows under me so that it took away some of the pressure off my back.  The back brace made it extremely difficult to move around and get up.  Once I had it on and lay down in bed there was no possible way I could get up until morning when I took if off while still in bed or called my mom for help if it was the middle of the night.  I was not allowed to go even one night without it because the doctors and my mom feared that one night would lead to two nights and so on and so on.  When my family and I went out of town I had to wear it.  A few days after I got the brace, my family and I had to travel to Myrtle Beach for my brother’s baseball tournament.  Up until that night, I had been unable to sleep through the night so my mom and I were very nervous about how this trip would go. It turned out the first night we were out of town was the first night I was able to sleep through the night.  I was probably so exhausted from the previous nights and the traveling that even though I was still in pain I was able to deal with it.  From that point on, I had no major problems sleeping in the brace.  I was unable to go on my 8th grade trip to Washington D.C. because I would have to bring my back brace and find a way to wear it every night.  That was going to be difficult because we were going to have to sleep on the bus for two nights which meant that I would be out of my brace and that could not happen.  Throughout the year, I returned to the doctor every three months for x-rays.  The doctor was waiting for my growing to stop.  Luckily for me, I am only 5 feet tall and after the year, I was cleared of wearing the brace.

Most people would think that wearing a back brace is the worst thing that can happen to a person.  It was not the worst; it gave me some amazing opportunities.  I began participating in Mckeever’s First Ride.  Mckeever’s is a program where kids with any type of disability are able to participate in activities that they normally would not be able to do by themselves.  Even though my disability was not noticeable and I was still able to do everything I could have ever wanted to do, I decided to go to see what it was like.  After one year of participating, I became a volunteer in the teen section.  I had the opportunity to meet some amazing people that year and I decided I wanted to go back the next year, but this time it was not just going to be as a volunteer, it was going to be as the teen ambassador. This was the opportunity of a lifetime. I got to meet some amazing kids who had disorders that were far worse than mine, but they still had smiles on their faces.  Mckeever’s allowed me to help children that were living with disabilities worse than mine.  Yet these children looked at me as their role model.  I met some wounded warriors who lost both of their legs in wars and I said to them that they were the real heroes, but they kept telling me that I was the hero because I gave up time I could have been doing regular teenage girl things to come up here and help other kids who probably do not have many people to talk to.  Parents came and told me how much they appreciated that their child had someone to talk to that was around their age and that was able to relate to what they were feeling.  I understood how the children felt when they said that they did not feel like anyone understood and that they did not feel comfortable talking to anyone about what was going on.  I understood that because I felt the same way when I first started wearing my back brace.  If I never had to wear the back brace I would never have realized that I wanted to help people and I would never have decided to go into nursing.

I thought that getting diagnosed with scoliosis was the worst thing ever.  It was the most challenging obstacle I have ever had to face, but it made me who I am today and opened up opportunities for my future.  I could never have predicted that five years ago.

- Jessica Grillo

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Posted by Adaptive Training Foundationon Friday, February 12, 2016

Dear Military and Veterans...

Dear Military and Veterans,

I realize that 99% of you hate to be hailed a hero. I realize that 80% of you don't really care what civilians have to say about that. I don't blame you. I also realize you don't have time to read blogs. So, I'll be short.

military flare

We think of you as heroes, because we can't imagine having the guts and heart to go through boot camp and then don a uniform and go to scary places to protect people you don't even know. Many of whom will shoot at you. Many of whom will insult you. Few of whom will have a clue why you're there. They have been brainwashed to believe that America is evil.

We think of you as heroes, because most of us can't imagine leaving our family and friends to go do what we back home lack the courage or constitution to do.

Sure, you say you do it because it is your profession. It is your way to get college funds. It's in your blood, you come from military stock. But, there was another path you could have taken. In our book, that makes you a hero.

Read more: Dear Military and Veterans...

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