In 2012 I had been experiencing extremely bad headaches. We went to see my doctor who then referred me to a back specialist. He said that I needed to have an operation. I had to get spinal surgery because my scoliosis had gotten so bad that eventually, my spine was going to dislocate my hip and crush my lungs. This would be the first operation I had ever had. It was organized extremely fast and that August I was in the hospital ready to go under not knowing if I would ever wake up again. I don’t think I have ever been so scared. The operation was six and a half hours but little did we know that although the surgery was a success it was far from over. I woke up extremely groggy but I was awake! I had a drain in my side, a drip in my neck, and a lot of bandages! I wasn’t allowed to sit up to do anything so it was a couple of days where I drank soup with a straw.
I spent two weeks in the ICU at the hospital. After the operation, I was a lot straighter which made me taller, when trying to leave the hospital we realized that I was so tall that I wouldn’t fit into the back of the car. The nurse suggested that we went back into the hospital and tried this later but I was so determined to go home. We had to remove the headrest and limbo into the back of the car but then we could not put it back on because of the roof of the car so my aunt had to hold my head from Pretoria all the way home. It was one of the longest drives of my life. I remember getting home and just passing out on my parent’s bed, when I woke up I had no idea where I was.
I then spent four weeks at home on bed rest, my parents moved my bed into the lounge so that I wouldn’t be alone. I watched a lot of television (this is where I fell in love with One Tree Hill). I had regular physio at home which was extremely difficult! I didn’t cope well with the recovery and I lost a lot of my strength. I didn’t eat because everything just didn’t taste right, I lost a lot of weight (I don’t encourage it as a diet option). This made it very difficult to do the things that I used to be able to do. People kept telling me how strong and brave I was but I just felt like I had lost a part of myself. I was a very independent person and after the operation, I couldn’t do half the stuff I used to. It was hard to move past it but inside I found my strength and I found it in my family. In the previous year, I was in the hospital with double pneumonia and the doctors didn’t think I was going to make it but I was determined not to give up because I had a lot more to do. So a year later I had to find that same strength to fight through. Losing my strength meant that I needed to find new ways to do things; one of the things was that I started to drink everything through a straw. Drinking with a straw doesn’t seem like a big deal but I must say it’s actually quite the talent, especially when it comes to hot drinks. People look at you as if you are mad when you ask for a straw with your tea, but it is something I’ve come accustomed to and I must say I am quite good at it now.
One day I decided that it was time to kick myself into gear because this wasn’t me and I needed to get back to myself. I got my family to wash my hair over the side of my bed, got dressed, and got into my chair. We went to the food and wine show and I just drove around very slowly but I felt so good. I finally felt a sense of normalcy again. About two months later I went back to school and as you may know, I can be quite stubborn so my mother suggested just a couple of hours for the first day. I was determined I was going back and it was all going to be back to normal. I learned quickly that my mother was right and I needed to integrate slowly.
The surgery honestly changed my life. I’m so much healthier and I can feel confident in my skin! I believe that my scar is my battle scar. It represents strength and that on my hardest days I remember where I’ve come from and how much I can handle in the future. It’s funny to think how I really struggle to look back at pictures before my surgery. I struggle to remember what it was like, I never felt uncomfortable because it was what I knew but now I cannot imagine how it was comfortable. I choose to look at those images and be proud of how far I have come. I’m finally happy with my body and choose to see the beauty in my own way. Everyone has parts of their body that they don’t particularly like but we need to start focusing on what we are proud of and choose to be happy with our bodies. It’s the only one we ever going to get.