I used to be Iron Man.
Well, not technically.
Let’s go back a few years…in fact, let’s go back to junior high. See, this whole “Iron Man thing” may be news to most of you.
The summer between my 8th and 9th grade year I was playing outside (like we did back then). I bent over to pick up a ball, and felt like I was stabbed directly in my upper back. Hoping the pain would subside, I remained quiet about it to my parents and went on with being a kid. There was one problem, however. My back still felt like there was a knife right next to my spine. Now, some of you may be saying to yourselves that I must have had a pinched nerve. Well, I did, but the reason why took me by surprise. It was much worse than a pinched nerve.
After a couple of days I finally couldn’t play it off anymore and I told my parents I needed to go to the doctor. I ensured them that it was urgent, and I really needed to go soon. My dad was reluctant to take me, but we went anyway. After my x-ray the doctor informed me I had scoliosis. Scoliosis is pretty common, and I know I’m not the only one in the world that has it. This is not my actual x-ray, but this is what scoliosis looks like (basically, it’s a curve in your spine).
My scoliosis, I was informed, was at a 26 degree curve (if my memory serves me correct). It was pretty bad. I was still growing, so the doctor gave me a couple of choices. He said I could have surgery and they would put a metal rod next to my spine. Although it was a risky surgery, and I probably wouldn’t be able to do a very physical job when I was older, there were definitely exceptions. He also gave me a choice of wearing a back brace for 23 hours of every day for a couple of years. The brace wouldn’t heal my back, but should sustain the curve and keep it from getting worse, he said.
After serious consideration (and considering I was scared out of my mind to have surgery), I chose the back brace. I got it right before the school year started. I wish I had a picture to show you, but unfortunately I left the brace in my parent’s house (which caught on fire in 2001). I’ll try to paint you a visual picture. With the visual picture I paint, I will insert a random scoliosis brace that looks similar to the one(s) I wore.
I had to wear a tube top under it. It was basically a shirt with no sleeves, and no top to it. It went up to the top of my chest, and halfway down my hips. The brace itself was enclosed in the front with four straps that tightened it from behind. It was extremely difficult to put on at first, but after a while, it became second nature. The only time I was supposed to take it off was to shower, and then it was supposed to be back on (while I was still growing). There were big holes cut into each side of the brace and I wish I could say you couldn’t tell I was wearing it. I tried my hardest to roll my shoulders back, stand up as straight as possible, and sit the same way. Unfortunately, when I sat down, the top of it in the back jutted out. I was so self-conscious of it, and it was extremely embarrassing.
When I was in ninth grade, while walking through the lunch room, a guy bumped into me. He said something like “Whoa! What is that?!” He started knocking on it, and then punched it. He hollered at a couple other guys and told them to check out Iron Man. They came over to where I was standing and they all took turns hitting it. I was petrified of everyone finding out, and this jackass was making sure everyone knew. I really wanted to punch him in the face, but I did not. Instead, I just stopped wearing it to school. I hated lying to my parents, so most of the time, I actually left the house with it on.
However, I would go to a friend’s house every morning before school anyways, to wait for the bus. Their parents had already left for work, so I would sneak in and take it off in their room. After I got off of the bus, I would put it back on. I’m sure the brace still worked a little bit, but probably not as well as it would have, had I continued to wear it all the hours that I should have. On the bright side, there were no more embarrassing moments at school (during gym I actually changed clothes in the coach’s office so no one could see it).
I was actually outfitted with a second brace as I got bigger, and I know the cost to my parents was astronomical. I wish it was actually cool to be Iron Man, but in ninth grade, sometimes it’s just easier to blend in, you know? Anyways, this jackass that blew my cover in ninth grade actually started dating my sister a couple of years later, AND had the nerve to propose to her right in front of me in my kitchen! Luckily, my sister had more sense than he was hoping and they never married. I’m sure he would have never let it down, that I used to be a superhero…I think my kids have high enough expectations of me now, not sure how I would have lived that reputation up…
I’m really hopeful that my scoliosis won’t give me a hunchback when I’m older, but I’d be lying if I said I never thought about it. I know I don’t usually write about this kind of stuff, but guess what? My back hurts today, and I really wish I didn’t live with scoliosis. Just sayin’…