Professional race car driver Cassie Gannis suffered from scoliosis as a child and teenager, going from a 15 percent curvature of the spine to more than 50 percent, even while wearing a brace. After several years, her doctors determined she would need corrective surgery. Always known for being an athlete and having a strong will, she was determined not to let scoliosis bring her down or dampen her dreams.
Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine. In most cases, the cause is unknown, but it usually starts in the preteen years and most commonly in girls. Treatment for scoliosis can include general monitoring as the child grows up, wearing a brace to correct the curve and corrective surgery. Many people are scared and confused when they hear the diagnosis. Parents often wonder if it means their child will have limited abilities or if the condition will continue to get worse.
This is the second of three posts about Cassie’s story, written for our #HealthBeat campaign. In Part 2 Cassie describes getting ready for, and recovering from having surgery for scoliosis.
Part 2: Surgery and family at my side
To prepare for my scoliosis surgery, I had to get standard blood work done and a chest X-ray. For the most part, it wasn’t too bad. But what I did hate was having to give two autotransfusion units of blood, ready to be on hand in case I needed them during surgery. I am fairly thin so each time I went to donate, I got dizzy and almost passed out. I hated going to the donation site.
On the outside I seemed fine but on the inside, I was scared to death! I had my entire family with me, even my grandma and grandpa flew in from Pennsylvania. Before I was taken into surgery I was hooked up to electrodes that would be used to make sure all my nerves remained intact during surgery. I looked like a science fiction character. It was at this point I broke down. I started what we call in my family the “ugly cry.” My mom was holding my hand and she started to cry, too. There we were both crying and both scared. My mom gave me some quick kisses and words of love. I don’t remember anything after that.
A short stay in ICU
I woke up in the ICU with my family all around me. Time sort of went in and out. Any time I felt pain I was told to use my morphine drip. I could just hear beeps and I think I remember my parents talking to me. I know my mom spent the night because she was always there. It is funny the things I remember. The very next day physical therapy came to get me into a chair. I have no idea how they did it.
I do remember my grandma bending over to give me a kiss and accidentally hitting the “head up” button on the bed. My eyes got really big and the rest of my family just yelled out at her to stop leaning over so the bed would stop going up. Everyone moved to the bedside to lower my head. I was doing so well in the ICU that I was moved out a day early.
Once on the floor, things started to get harder because physical therapy had me up and out twice a day, walking the hall. I didn’t want to get up and move. I just wanted to lay in bed. You also need to start eating. I had no appetite and all my family wanted me to do was eat.
My dad just kept saying “eat, eat, eat” but I didn’t want to. My mom kept ordering food and it just looked bad to me. One morning my dad tried to put a Cheerio in my mouth and I was so mad I took it and spit it out with the tip of my tongue. It hit my mom at the end of the bed and everyone in the room cracked up, including my mom!
I was on the floor for about three days and progressing fairly well. Then I learned I was going home. I was very excited to get out the door.
Stay tuned for the final part of my scoliosis story.
Next, Part 3: My journey home and no turning back
You can learn more about scoliosis with these resources:
These earlier blog posts have tips for maintaining a healthy back:
Read this series
Providence is pleased to share the stories of great people who have overcome health conditions. As part of our population health program, we want to share insights and stories that help bring awareness to common health conditions. Not all the people featured in our stories are Providence patients.