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Not your Average Summer Break: Student undergoes life-changing back surgery

Abigail Hurtt, Editor-In-Chief

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While most teenagers spend their summer break tanning by the pool or packing for a relaxing getaway, some are not so lucky. Rather than fun in the sun, senior Collin Blackwell spent much of his summer in bed, recovering from a life-changing and painful back surgery.

Blackwell suffers from scoliosis, a condition causing abnormal curvature of the spine, usually in an “S” or “C” shape. This condition can make it difficult to stand for long periods of time or do certain physical activities. While many cases of scoliosis can be treated through physical therapy or a back brace, an unlucky minority require surgery to correct the problem. Due to the severity of his spinal curve, Blackwell fell into that unlucky group and underwent back surgery this past June. 

“I was really nervous about how this would affect my life for the first few weeks after,” Blackwell said. “But I knew it would have a huge payoff.”

A procedure as serious as a back surgery starts before the actual surgery even begins. Patients must prepare for the operation in advance, sort of like training for a marathon.

“I had to work out several times a week (to keep my strength up),” Blackwell said. “(Preparation included) washing with a special type of soap to clean the skin and not eating anything the night before and morning of the surgery.”

The surgery for correcting scoliosis is particularly invasive. Surgeons first put the patient under anesthesia and make a large incision in the back while the patient is on his or her stomach. Making sure the head is elevated, the surgeon then drills into the spine, puts in metal rods, and places screws in to hold the two metal rods in place. One wrong move in surgery could have had devastating consequences for Blackwell.

“Multiple things could have gone wrong,” Blackwell said.  “I could have gone blind, lost feeling to my extremities, and becoming paralysed are the biggest things that could have gone wrong.”

While Blackwell did not feel anything during the actual surgery, he said the moments following the procedure were some of the most painful of his life.

“I was in a lot of pain and could not do anything on my own (for the first week),” Blackwell said. “The recovery process at first was really brutal because I could barely move and I needed help doing every little action, but now I have regained my sense of independence and have only a few restrictions.”

Although the surgery and recovery was a long and painful ordeal, Blackwell said he is grateful because he no longer feels the pain he used to and will therefore have a better quality of life.

“The surgery really made me think about what we take for granted as little things that we do every day require our back in some form,” Blackwell said. “Physically, I was weak at first but feel stronger than I was before.”

 

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Not your Average Summer Break: Student undergoes life-changing back surgery