Case of April
I will never forget the day we were on our way to our family vacation and decided to stop and rest in a hotel in Zacatecas, Mexico. Three of my four daughters came with us, my two twins age 13 and my other 1-year-old. In the morning, after breakfast they wanted to go to the pool, so they put on their bathing suits and came with me. I was looking at one of my twin daughters, April, noticing something very strange about her body. I saw that one of her shoulders was taller than the other and that her right hip was elevated. I did not like what it looked like, so I asked my husband to look and tell me if he was seeing the same thing I had. He replied, “No.” I told him, “Look again.” And he said, “I do not see anything strange.”
The next day he talked to me and said that he was very worried. My question made him think that maybe April had a problem. He noticed that when April was standing, she always leaned on one of her legs. So I started to think about when April was a baby. The day she started to crawl, the day she tried to walk, or even the day she started running, she ducked her head as if it was too heavy for her and she would try to stand. I do not know why I did not pay attention then, maybe because April was always a very healthy girl and her pediatrician did not mention anything about it.
That vacation week, I could not help wondering why my daughter’s body was taking that shape. I thought about how she had her father’s build, very tall and thin. However, that was not enough explanation for all the other things that I began to notice in April. For example, why was her waist so uneven? Now I know that it is called lordosis, but at that point, I did not know what was going on. There were a lot of details that I started to remember because, at the time they happened, I was not aware of their importance.
When we returned from our trip, the first thing I did was make an appointment with the doctor. As a regular procedure, you must first visit a general practitioner. I remember that I was the first one to come in and tell the doctor everything I was seeing in April’s body. I did not want April to listen because if it was not something serious, I did not want to make her feel bad. The doctor listened to me and then called in April. He examined her and gave us a pass to go see the trauma surgeon. The medical diagnosis said probably scoliosis. I left the medical center very worried. I did not know what scoliosis meant, I was not even familiar with the word, but I did not have a good feeling. I talked to my husband and he told me we should wait to find out the other diagnosis. The day of the appointment arrived, we waited for the doctor for more than an hour. April was impatient and anxious, she did not understand why she had to see a doctor if she felt fine. The doctor never came, so we left and my husband decided to make another appointment, with a doctor he knew. The next day, the doctor confirmed the first diagnosis, idiopathic scoliosis, and shortening of the left leg.
The first thing we had to do was find out what type of scoliosis April had and what kind of treatments would be the best for her. The doctor began to explain and I was surprised, doing my best to pay attention to what he was saying. He stated that in the future, there was a possibility of her undergoing surgery, but the first thing April needed was a Milwaukee corset. When we left April I was devastated, I could not stop crying and we were very worried. The doctor sent us to a physiotherapist and gave us the address where we could find the corset for April. It was a Friday night so there was no way to get an appointment with the physiotherapist. The next day, we went to look for the Milwaukee corset and found it in a neglected warehouse with strange devices and a lot of shoes. We talked to the man working there and told him about April’s condition. I told him it was urgent for us to have the corset, he gave us a catalog with a lot of samples of corsets. I told him to come to our house the next day and take the measurements for the corset for April. The man said that we needed to stretch her arms and legs so that the measurements were correct. I did not understand what he had meant by that, but I still told him to come Sunday anyway. When we got home, we showed April the corset catalog and she became upset, saying she would never wear the Milwaukee corset again. She wanted the Boston corset and I could not force her to do something she did not want to do.
On Monday, we went to the physiotherapist, who was a very nice retired doctor, who had her own medical center and tried to explain more things about scoliosis to us. She told us that there was a maximum level of curvature of the spine and at that level, there was the possibility that they would have to do surgery. April was very close to that level, the x-rays showed 38 degrees. At that time, I was not aware of the pros and cons of a surgery. All I knew was that I wanted to stop the deformation of my daughter’s body.
She also told us that the treatment would last 3 or 4 years, which we thought it was a very long time. I could not stop thinking about how she was in her second year of high school and that she would have to wear that corset all the time in college.
We were devastated, confused, and desperate. For us there was no way out, so I started looking in the phone book, on the Internet, with people we knew, name search, doctors. If there was a possibility that my daughter had to be operated on, we wanted the best doctor for her. The physiotherapist asked me if I had already bought the corset and I told her, “No, we were still looking for someone to do it.” She asked if we had approached the Engineer Caudillo? I told her that our first doctor gave us the phone number and address of another person. She specifically advised us to go see him, she said that he was the best in that area and knew a lot of people. She also said he formed a conference with orthopedists last year and talked about scoliosis specifically. This was a light of hope on our way. We met with Engineer Caudillo and he introduced us to Dr. Miguel Gomez. This was a way for us to learn more about the disease but above all, an opportunity to put my daughter in good hands.
Today I am writing this and I feel confident and calm, April has been using his corset for 3 years. But a year ago, she’d been wearing it only during the nights. Her recovery has been incredible, we have managed to reduce the 2 curves she had. The thoracic was reduced by 50% and the lumbar area slightly less. Dr. Gomez always tells me that what matters is a balance, rather than curves. Sometimes I do not understand everything since every doctor has their own way of diagnosing, but I trust Dr. Gomez’s. At first, the only thing I was worried about was stopping that curve in April’s spine, but with all the attention and help we’ve received, April has better posture and is in a better mood now. I feel very fortunate to have met wonderful people during this journey, very professional in their work and willing to help us in every way they could with their knowledge and experience. Not everyone has the same fate. I remember before April was diagnosed, I took her to the doctor because she did not feel well, she was not able to stand up for herself, and she complained of back and neck pains. It was very unusual, so I went with her to the doctor and along the way, I remembered that she had had this kind of pain before, twice to be more specific. I told the doctor, but unfortunately, he did not have the knowledge to diagnose these symptoms. He just gave April some medication for torticollis, I now know these were symptoms of scoliosis.
April used 5 corsets, the first was the Milwaukee type and she used it for 3 months. It was not helping to reduce the curves but, it was useful for her in an emotional way. The rest of the corsets were made with CAD CAM technique, these were more effective, less disturbing and for this same reason, gave her the opportunity to move better. These corsets were made by Dr. Gomez and with this type of corset, April was having a normal life. The only thing different was that she had to wear a special type of clothes but she had no problem with that. She is a very even girl. She does the exercise routine every day, 3 times a week, and always follows the instructions of the orthopedist (on how to use the corset). The only day she did not wear the corset was on her 15th birthday, but she wears it at night when she gets home.
My job does not allow me to be with her every day, but I try hard to spend as much time with her as I can. I make sure she is doing her exercises, but she does not need my supervision on that, she knows that it is her responsibility and always does them. The first few months were very hard because I had to leave a lot of my daily responsibilities to be able to take April to treatment. Sometimes we had to visit the doctor 3 times on the same day because the corset bothered her hip. It was necessary that the corset fits properly and that it could be as comfortable as possible for her to use it every day. We tried to create a good atmosphere for her, as soon as we learned of her illness. We talked with our other girls and explained that their sister was going to need a lot of love and patience. We also told her cousins, uncles, and aunts everything about scoliosis and that she was going to wear the corset for a period of time. We also made a great blanket with messages of encouragement from her family and friends, and they made her a special desk so she could fit perfectly with the Milwaukee corset. Every time she had the CAD CAM corset on though, she I did not need it anymore.
She also found support in her teachers and classmates. One of her teachers asked her to prepare a class on scoliosis, after being absent for a couple of days, to remove the absences. She was more than happy to do so, she searched the Internet and found a wealth of information. She gave a presentation and wanted everyone to know all about scoliosis because some of her classmates could have it without even knowing. She also enjoys going to prosthetics and orthopedic conferences in Mexico. She has been 2 times in Guadalajara and one in Aguascalientes.
We also went to visit Dr. Gomez in Houston, Texas. She always comes back hopeful because she knows they are very professional. I think all this helped her handle her illness and her treatment in a better way. She has always been a very good student but her grades went down just as she started the treatment. After that, however, she got first place in the class. On this year’s vacation, April finally had the opportunity to swim in the ocean and put her feet in the sand without having the corset on. She still has to wear special shoes for her left foot and at this point, she is not wearing the corset so she can dress like a normal girl, which makes her feel better. I am very confident that in the future, our daughter would not have any more problems. But if something does happen, we know we can count on a lot of professionals who are willing to help us.
It is necessary for everyone to know that there is not much information about this disease, but the Dr. Gomez website can provide you with a wealth of valuable information.
Our telephone number in Mexico is 52 871 725 4861 if someone is interested in contacting us.