Testimonial – Demelza Neville

Demelza Neville

My Idiopathic Scoliosis Journey

Part 1:

I was diagnosed a few weeks before my 13th birthday with scoliosis, my mom had always kept an eye on my growth because Scoliosis was something that occurred in my family and one day when I was attending a swimming lesson, I decided to wear my very first bikini and my mom asked me to stand in front of her and she had a very worried look on her face and I knew something was wrong. I was taken to the family general practitioner and I was sent for X-rays and then I was officially diagnosed with Idiopathic Scoliosis. Our chosen course of treatment was for me to attend a Physiotherapist to try to help any progression of the curve that might occur.

I was given many exercises to help keep my movement going. Over the years I was attended by different Physiotherapists for treatment and when I was 16 the physiotherapist I was seeing then asked me to withdraw from most sports and all I was left to do was Mountain biking and Swimming. It was hard giving up my other sports but I knew this was for my health and to help with pain control. I was able to live with the curve for a long time with no problems except the rare episode of pain up till I reached 18. Then a week after I turned 18 I was at swimming training, preparing for an upcoming gala which I was going to participate in because I was pretty good and I used to swim the Breaststroke and Freestyle races.

During training I felt an unusual pain in between my scapula, I was struggling to breathe so I started panicking. I asked the coach to take time out and I was allowed to sit out, all the sports coaches knew about my Scoliosis. At first I thought the pain was just because I was unfit but the pain lasted a couple of days. I phoned my mom to tell her and she set up a doctor’s appointment for me.

Part 2:

The general practitioner sent me for some new X-rays and now it was just a case of waiting for the X-rays. My mom messaged me whilst I was at school to tell me the GP was not happy with the X-rays and that the curve had progressed. The only option we had was to visit the Orthopaedic surgeon. I freaked out at this news because the thought of surgery terrified me more than anything else. The Orthopaedic surgeon told us that bracing was not an option in my case because of the curve and my age so that only left surgery as the last option.

I was now over 18 so the decision to have a surgery was mine and right there and then I opted for surgery. I was going to have a spinal fusion done. The news spread around the school very quickly and I received a lot of support, I was very grateful for it because just knowing that I had support was making it all a bit easier. Whilst waiting for all the equipment and implants for the surgery to be in order I attended therapy to keep me positive.

I had all sorts of tests done to prepare for the surgery, these included lung and heart function tests, where we found out that due to the curve my left lung was only producing 72% capacity and that’s why when I did a sport I’d run out of the air. I also had an MRI done.

Part 3:

The time came pretty quickly for me to be admitted into a hospital and my best friend and her mum were there to support us. I was grateful because it made us calm down. I was taken to the room where I was going to stay overnight and in there was another patient whom I knew very well, she was suffering from back pain. She comforted me as fear was trying to take over.

The morning came and I was still receiving messages and phone calls from people and they kept me positive but I was still freaking out, this surgery was going to change my life as well as my health in huge ways. The nurses came in to take me to the Operating room. The nurses that would be in the room with me held conversations with me and told me the surgeon was fully prepared and able to do this.

Dr. Mandizvidza came to see me and told me it was nearly time. They were just waiting for some extra blood. Then I was taken into the operating room and put to sleep. The operation took 12 hours to complete. The moment I woke up I put my hand on my left rib cage and said they are in line now. I stayed in the CCU for 7 days and on the 3rd day, I had begun to do physiotherapy to regain movement. Whilst I was in the CCU I became anaemic and was in desperate need of blood. I am “A” negative and there wasn’t any available in the hospital. My mom and her best friend posted a “help needed” post on Facebook and the next day I received blood. When I was moved out of the CCU I was put in into the ward.

I stayed in the ward for 4 days and I did Physiotherapy once a day. After leaving the hospital I was told to have six weeks bed rest but to take a walk once a day. My pain was pretty low but I felt extremely stiff all the time. But I could breathe a lot better compared to before. After the 6 weeks of bed rest, I attended physiotherapy twice a week to regain strength. I was cleared by the physio and the surgeon and returned to school. When I returned to school I was welcomed warmly back but there were a few changes which included not participating in competitive sports and I was to do as minimal lifting of objects as possible.

I had to continue with my exercises. My recovery was very smooth and everything went according to plan. Now two years later I am healthier and happier than ever before. As much as surgery was scary, it changed my life greatly, thank you Dr. Mandizvidza for a successful surgery and the great care you and your team showed me.