My name is Bryan Smith and my story begins back in the year 2007 when I joined the military during my junior year of high school. Since then life hasn’t been the same. First off you need to know growing up for me was never easy. My mother never believed that medically there could be anything wrong with me and if there was, I must have made it up. Anyway, on one miserable day in late 2009, things changed in a devastating way when I was diagnosed with what’s called Scheuermann’s kyphosis disease. This disease is a degenerative spinal disease that just wears and wears at the disks and vertebra in the spine until nothing is left.
Along with that it cause kyphosis, or a severe curvature. So going back to when I joined the military, I was screened just like everyone else for things such as scoliosis and other issues. At this point in time nothing was detected and I was able to join. When I was at basic training I noticed that the body armor was taking a toll on my body but didn’t think much of it. I returned home from training and went back to life as normal. For the next year I had a few aches and pains but nothing I thought I couldn’t handle. After graduating high school, I was sent to complete my training for my specific job in the National Guard.
Again, during the course of my training I noticed that my body was handling less and less time wearing the armor, but I just shrugged it off and pushed through it like we were taught to do. I completed my training and came home once again to be assigned to my permanent duty station. When I got there we were informed that we would be deploying. Luckily for me if turned out to be a state side deployment to Washington DC. So we started training and once again the body armor was becoming too much for me to handle. This time was different however.
I was in agony by the time I came out of the armor and this time I decided enough was enough. When we got to the Capital, I sought treatment. The first time I went to visit the doctor I would be working with, my appointment turned out to be a very displeasing visit. After a talking to her for some time she finally said “suck it up”, your body just isn’t used to wearing the forty-five pound armor. Of course I responded with an aggravated look on my face, “I think it’s more than that, I’ve never felt anything like this in my life. ”
After being sent on my way with no relief, I set an appointment for a few weeks down the road. During my next visit a few weeks later, the doctor replied again with “it’s just sore muscles”. By this point I was beginning to think to myself “self maybe I am just imagining things. I just need to be a man and push through the pain. ” A few months later, during our morning physical training session, my legs gave out on me and I collapsed on the track. I once again shrugged it off and figured it was a fluke. I went home that night and went right to bed. The following morning was like nothing I had ever felt before in my life.
I woke up and I was in such excruciating pain I couldn’t even bare the thought of rolling to get out of bed. After about forty minutes or so of trying I finally called my superiors and they took me to the doctor. I was finally going to know what’s going on. I went to the doctor and they put me on muscle relaxers and said okay, so we need X-rays and an MRI of both your thoracic and lumbar spine. I of course had no idea what that meant at the time but I said okay. The next morning I came in did the tests and they gave me a work restriction sheet, basically telling me not to do anything strenuous until we figure out what’s wrong with me.
For the next few months I continued to be in pain and constantly calling the doctors because they never gave me the results. I had finally called JAG because they were withholding my results from me. After JAG investigated the situation I got a call from them asking me to come in to discuss the results. I made the appointment and went in to see them shortly after. After sitting in the room for nearly an hour they finally came in to tell me what was wrong with me. I thought to myself, I might now know what’s going on. Well wrong again.
The doctor came in and told me what I had, but she didn’t know what it actually was. I was once again left in the room for nearly another hour while the doctor did research on the subject to better explain the results of my MRI and X-rays to me. After months of waiting this is it. The doctor is back in and I’m finally hearing what’s wrong with me. The results were light years worse than anyone expected. The results stated that I had problems all the way down my spine. I had bulging and protruding disks, wedged vertebra, and a sixty degree curvature of the spine.
What makes things worse is that the disease is an underlying “childhood” disease that usually presents itself in early adulthood. So even though the problems presented themselves while in the Army they claim no responsibility. However, according to my doctor, if I had never joined the military my symptoms may never have presented themselves at all. It has now been almost six years of dealing with my back. I am still to this day in a battle with the military over who is responsible. I continue to receive treatment on a monthly basis and until recently I have only continued to deteriorate.
My most recent MRI’s and X-rays showed that I now have an eighty-five degree curvature and I am set to have surgery to correct this in less than a month. This condition has beyond negatively impacted every aspect of my life. Every four months or so I have had to get new MRI’s to track the progression of the disease. Every day I get closer and closer to losing all functions in my lower body. My legs give out periodically and go completely numb when they feel like it. The doctors say the curvature may be cause pressure to my sciatic nerve in turn doing this, however it may not be the cause.
After the surgery I am going to need extensive X-ray’s to ensure that there is not another underlying issue in my lumbar. After all this started happening, I realized that life may throw you curve balls every once in a while, but you just have to take them as they come. I need to live life to the fullest and do what I want because even with this surgery I may never be the same. I could be paralyzed and never have the opportunities I have now. So now I have to ask you as the reader, since you’ve heard my story, what’s yours?