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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Milwaukee Brace

Today at Tales From the Crip Ingrid Tischer wrote the following:

What would be a “threat of self-harm” for you, is a “personal choice” for me.

What calls for an intervention for you, calls for a pre-suicide party for me.

Your movie is It’s a Wonderful Life. My movie is It’s a Wonderful Death.

Tischer wrote these words for World Suicide Prevention Day. I urge others to follow the provided link and read her words. They are powerful. Like me, Fischer was a first. Our generation was the first that expected to live and lead an ordinary life. An ordinary life that included paralysis. While her words struck it was one image that really prompted a flood of memories. 

I wore that brace for many years. I wore it 23 hours a day. I was allowed a 15 minute daily shower and the remaining 45 minutes was spent vigorously exercising my trunk muscles. I hated that brace. It was hot. It was heavy. Despite the fact I could walk, it made me a target. I wore that brace for five years. In the summer I perspired so heavily that I would wring out my shirt. In the winter the metal would get cold and no jacket in the world could keep me warm. I suffered. The worst was monthly brace clinic. The orthopedic surgeon I saw was a cold miserable man. I hated him. He had no heart. Brace clinic was pure pressure. If my scoliosis got worse I would need immediate surgery. That fear hung over my head for years. However, thanks to brilliant parenting my mother built in a pressure relief valve. After brace clinic we would go to the Cloisters in northern Manhattan. We would get a dirty water hot dog outside the hospital and then get in the car heading north. We walked around the Cloisters looking at the tapestries and from the parking lot admire the view of Hudson River and cliffs on the New Jersey side of the river. I remember the stress. I remember the bullying. I remember teachers laughing along with other students when I would be mocked by others.  Why I am telling this story? Today I looked in the jacket pocket of an old jacket. I found a note written by mother. It was simple: "Happy Christmas! Love Mom and Dad". I burst into tears. I mourn my mother and father. As I tell others, I hit the parent lottery. Thankfully, I was with a friend who held me as I cried. 


Nessie Siler said...

You've brought back memories for me today. For us, it was doctor's visits at the Lennox- Baker hospital. (I believe it is still up and running.) Afterwards, it was dinner of burgers, or Chick-fil-A's or my favorite, an Orange Julius. I loved them.

I'm so sorry for the loss of your amazing Mom and Dad. And I am glad you weren't alone today...

Miz Kizzle said...

Another scoliosis person here. I didn't have the brace, but during my high school years I wore an orthopedic garment with steel panels that was referred to as a corset, it wasn't a sexy corset, more like a medieval torture device. It didn't help at all and now I have metal bolts and rods shoring up my twisty spine. Thinking about the corset, and the brace, I wonder why they have to make these things so appalling-looking? Couldn't they make orthopedic devices that look cool, for the kids who have to wear them?

william Peace said...

Nessie, Sounds like you had great parents too.
Mis Kizzle, I did not get Herrington rods. The decision to do only a spinal fusion was controversial at the time I had surgery. Fast forward to today and many people I know are having those rods removed in middle age. Orthopedic devices remain particularly ugly. However, casting has vastly improved. Colors are kid centered and diverse.