When Julianna was around 12 years old, her ballet teacher noticed something wasn’t quite right with the way Julianna was standing. I had also been watching her at dance and felt something wasn’t right although I couldn’t figure out what it was. Finally, her teacher realized she was showing signs of scoliosis.
We immediately started researching scoliosis trying to figure out what we needed to do to help stop it from getting worse.
A friend of my brother was a chiropractor. We started taking Julianna to see him. At first, the x-rays weren’t bad, and then he called and said there wasn’t more he could do. We asked what the surgeon would do and he told us that he would put Julianna in a brace for 23 hours a day with 1 hour out of the brace. When she reached surgery level, the doctor would do surgery and put a rod in her back to make it straight and “normal” again. When we asked about doing ballet and soapbox derby, he told us those activities would have to be stopped.
After reading books on different exercises for scoliosis and researching different treatments, I ran across Clear Institute information online. At first, I was afraid it was too good to be true, that there were doctors that actually felt the way I did about doing surgery on scoliosis patients. I showed my husband the information to make sure I wasn’t jumping to conclusions. I also wanted to get his opinion as to whether it would be okay to get more information.
We agreed we had to do something because Julianna’s back wasn’t getting better. She had continued with her ballet classes and when I stood watching her in class, I noticed her shoulder blade was sticking out more and she was having a harder time catching her breath.
I sent out an email early one morning requesting information from the two doctors closest to us, each an 8 hour drive, one in PA and one in NC. I decided the doctor’s office that got back to me first would be who I went with. Katie from Dr. Kean’s office got back to me that morning. She was very kind and helpful. She told us the process and procedures of the treatments, and then she told us how much it would cost for a week of treatments. We knew we needed time to get the money together so we made the appointment a couple months away from our talk.
When we arrived to Julianna’s first appointment the staff was very helpful and encouraging. Julianna’s x-rays showed she was worse than we thought. She was surgery level. Dr. Kean said she had to have 2 weeks of intensive treatments to get her scoliosis in check.
I know the treatments were hard and tough on Julianna, but she never complained. A lady from Ohio was doing the same scoliosis treatments with Julianna, although Julianna had to do a few extra exercises. She told me a couple of times while she was waiting for the same adjustments as Julianna, she saw Julianna quietly wiping her tears away. That broke my heart, and although I had felt this was the way to go versus the surgery, as a mother I started questioning and doubting our decision.
By the end of the first week, I was a little scared by what the x-rays were going to tell us, but, the doctor told us there were improvements. I could see a little bit of what the doctor was showing us in the x-rays, but x-rays still aren’t that plain to me!
Later that day Julianna looked at me and said, “Mom, my ribs.” I immediately asked her if she was hurting or had done something doing her exercises that had hurt her. She smile and said, “No mom, they aren’t in my way anymore!”
Dr. Kean had showed us in her first x-rays that her ribs had rolled forward and that was the reason she was getting short of breath during her ballet classes. Julianna hadn’t realized or questioned why she was hitting her ribs during dance. She thought that was the way it was and was determined she was going to dance and she did!
So, this was the beginning of our trip to NC 2 times every year while doing exercises at home just about every day. This is very hard on Julianna and the rest of us too. It’s hard work and determination on her part, and just time on my or her brother’s part. We have to help her with the exercise (1 ½ hours), but she has to do all the hard work. Then you add in school, dance, and other activities and you have a day that doesn’t have enough hours in it. Why do we keep doing it when it is hard work and the money isn’t there? Because this is the best for Julianna’s health and well being.
She is a beautiful dancer-classical ballet, and most people don’t know she has scoliosis but believe me she does. You have to have great poise and posture. Everything is in straight lines and smoothly executed with grace. That takes a lot of work normally, but to balance and do pirouette in a series with scoliosis- that is a lot of extra hard work! The teachers understand the normal hard work but not the extra hard work that Julianna has to do.
A former ballet dancer with the local professional ballet company in Charleston, WV, has a daughter at Julianna’s studio. She came up to Julianna after one of Julianna’s performance’s and told Julianna what an awesome job she did- lots of leaps and pirouettes- looking graceful and effortless. The mom hugged Julianna and told her she knew how hard it was for a dancer to dance like that but that she knew how much harder it was for Julianna to do it. I got on the defense ready to say something if she made an issue of Julianna’s scoliosis because not many people know of Julianna’s scoliosis.
The mom let go of her perfect straight posture and showed as she too had been dancing with scoliosis. Julianna started crying and told her that was the best compliment and encouragement she had received. The mom truly knew how much dance meant to Julianna and the pain and extra hard work she had to put into the dances.
So this is why we continue to come to NC. Not only Julianna’s health and future, but her passion for ballet depends upon our visits.
We have had friends that have daughters with scoliosis that chose the surgery route. Their kid’s lives were changed forever. They couldn’t do the physical activities they loved anymore. One of the moms told me her daughter still had the pain to deal with every day. She said when she would rub her daughter’s back to ease the pain; she could feel the screws in the rod in her daughter’s back. The mom said she wished they had gone the way that Julianna is taking.
Julianna H. – Given, West Virgina