Today, our focus is on a medical condition that affects the spine. But, for the purpose of introduction, let us read this account by ABIMBOLA OLADAPO, a young woman that is afflicted it:
“In 2004, I was nearly 12 years-old and in JSS3. I was in the secondary school boarding house. When school closed, I was home for the summer holidays as usual; but it was going to be anything but usual!
“That summer, every time my big sister watched me walk, she would shout out at me ‘Bimbo, why are you walking this way? Stop bending. You are doing ‘guy’. You will just spoil your posture’. And each time, I would reply, ‘This is how I have been walking since. I’m not bending. I don’t know what you are talking about’. Doing ‘guy’ meant slanting one shoulder down and walking with a swagger.
“I vividly recall that my cousin came to the house too and said, ‘You! You don’t know you are a tall, fine girl and you can be a model. Look at how you are spoiling your posture, doing ‘guy’. It became annoying as everyone thought I was ‘doing guy’. I couldn’t wait to get back to school.
“Then came Christmas and I was invited to a party. I had dressed up for the party in a body hugging green dress when my sister saw me. She shouted, ‘Huh? Bimbo, what is wrong with your back?’ She had noticed that my back bone on the right side was more pronounced than the one on the left. ‘Oh well, I don’t know what you are talking about but I am going to the party’, I said.
“But, they made me change my dress to a less fitted one. The following Monday morning, we landed in front of an orthopaedic doctor at the Nigerian Military Hospital, Yaba, Lagos. Then the doctor landed a sucker punch, saying, ‘Your daughter has scoliosis’.
What is Scoliosis?
“According to the doctor, scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine – the spine is curved to one side of the body, rather than straight. It affects girls more than boys and occurs most often during the pre-adolescent years when girls are self-conscious and insecure about their changing bodies. About 80-90 per cent of cases of scoliosis are idiopathic (meaning they have no known cause).
“The doctor referred me to the National Orthopaedic Hospital in Igbobi, Lagos. After several x-rays and following due procedure, I was advised to get a brace. I wore this brace for two years and the only results I got were skin rash, scars, intense heat, and 100 per cent discomfort in my own skin! It was totally hideous and practically turned me into an oxygen-breathing robot. But, there was one good thing about the brace. Anyone who tried to hit me ended up with sore knuckles!
“Actually, the brace prevented the curve from reaching a surgical curve magnitude. So, in a way, it worked. Braces don’t permanently correct scoliosis, but they halt the progression in about 70 per cent of cases. This has been proven by a recent study conducted by the National Institute of Health from Iowa. I participated in it.
The psychological effect
“Beyond the braces, the one thing I would never forget about living with scoliosis, apart from fatigue and back pain, is the emotional scars! They are the deepest of all scars. I remember being mimicked and being called names like ‘hunchback’. I remember a girl in secondary school who, in a bid to insult me once told me – ‘Come on, walk straight. You can’t even walk straight. See how you are bending. Okay, prove me wrong. Walk straight’. And then I overheard a boy in university say ‘That Bimbo girl, I can’t even marry someone like her. Person wey no normal’.
“Growing up from pre-adolescence was tough enough, not to talk of being tagged as ‘abnormal’ for a condition that is not your fault! It was really demoralizing and it took me about four years to break free! I kept running from my own back, hoping that I would wake one morning to find that the scoliosis had vanished! For me to be bold enough to share this today, it took a lot of courage, tears, fears, determination, giving up and starting all over!
“A lot of people may say: ‘What’s the big deal about scoliosis? It’s not like HIV/AIDS or malaria or any of the very common diseases.’ Yes, it is not. Scoliosis is not even a disease, to begin with; but it cannot be compared with any other! It is peculiar in its own way.
“I’m a firm believer in the indisputable fact that the one thing that makes or breaks a man is his mind. A man cannot amount to anything outside of his mind. And so for a condition like scoliosis that practically cripples the mind, I consider it very much life-threatening. If this thing is going to make me feel like an outcast, unable to go swimming in public, unable to wear fitting clothes, get married or fulfill my dreams of becoming an actress, how can I live effectively? How can I lead a happy, fulfilling life?
“The fact that I’m way over my issues with self-esteem now does not mean others like me can deal with it. As a matter of fact, it’s a battle I have to constantly deal with everyday and remind myself of emerging victorious. It is not exactly cheap.”
Really, scoliosis does not have a 100 per cent cure. There are people who develop large curves that become physically life-threatening. The only key to combating scoliosis is EARLY DETECTION. Unfortunately, we have little or no scoliosis awareness-knowledge in this part of the world; talk less of identifying its symptoms.
Today, be aware that there are children with curvy spines. We may not be able to change the entire world or get rid of scoliosis entirely, but we can definitely make a difference. That difference is all the change the world needs.
Let us support scoliosis awareness. Together, we are always better!
For more information contact:
National Scoliosis Foundation
The Scoliosis Research Society Curvy Girls Inc.