MY STORY

It all started for me, with severe back pain. I was a national level swimmer training day in and out to pursue my dream of a national medal. At 12 and a half my back pain got worse and started affecting my training and racing. That is when I had to go see a doctor, and after a couple of x-rays they broke the news to me – that I had scoliosis.

I remember seeing the x-ray where my spine was curved like an S. I knew the letter S was special to me, but I didn’t want it to be that special. I was told I had adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Now, those were some very big words; I couldn’t even pronounce them.

My initial experience with doctors was terrifying. My curve was already severe at 50 degrees  and with my growth spurt it increased rapidly. I was fortunate to have my parents and family behind me, as I approached every single doctor. But I was beyond the limits of bracing, and surgery seemed to be the only permanent correction. Luckily as swimming was beneficial, I didn’t stop. Some of my greatest swimming achievements were with back pain.

If you tried to google something on my phone in 2017, you’d only find scoliosis. I had made it clear; I didn’t want surgery. So, we started looking for alternative methods to stop the worsening curve. Physiotherapy in Mumbai, Chiropractic treatment every alternate weekend in Pune, non-surgical treatment in London, Chiropractic methods in New York. This cycle went on for 2 years. But nothing worked. New York was my last resort at alternative medicine, it was my last hope to avoid surgery. But at that time all had failed. It had also become difficult to cope with swimming at this point. It wasn’t helping my spine anymore and hence I stopped swimming after almost 8 years, with it I buried my dream of being a national medal winner.

In 2018, with my second visit to New York my curve had reached 90 and 80 degrees. It was clear there was only one option left – surgery. The doctors were amazing, whether in Mumbai or the USA. The only surgery I was ready to do was the Vertebral Body Tethering, a relatively new surgery and very risky. But it was better than spinal-fusion and gave me greater mobility. Although, this surgery wasn’t all that popular, as at that time it wasn’t FDA approved, for me this was my choice.

So, summer of 2018, I went to New Jersey, where I met a brilliant team of doctors who operated on my curve for a long 10 hours. The surgery was successful. With titanium screws in my spine now, my curve has significantly reduced and kept reducing. Yes, post-surgery was very painful. I was in the hospital ICU for a week, and spent a month in the USA, before I was able to come back to Mumbai. It took me 6 months to return to normalcy. I continue to have a slight pain in my back almost every day, but this just makes me stronger.

WORDS OF WISDOM

  • Scoliosis isn’t a restriction. Scoliosis did alter my life – but only for the better
  • Scoliosis has made me brave, it has made me a warrior
  • Having scoliosis doesn’t make you different – there is no need to hide that scar or brace
  • We have to embrace our spine and our scoliosis to help the others out there