Hoda Labib from Egypt

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The Unforgettable Journey
I still remember how I felt walking out of the doctor’s clinic; knowing that my curve has progressed to 62 degrees and that undergoing the surgery is now a must. I still remember how miserable I felt knowing that I won’t be joining the Egyptian National Volleyball team, and I still remember how disappointed I felt knowing that if I hadn’t been misled by another doctor a year ago; if only I had known about scoliosis earlier; ifonly I had visited Dr. Youssry El Hawary earlier, then I could have possibly prevented this agonizing fate. I still remember how I felt knowing that all my plans were now dismissed.

We tried to escape the fate of having a surgery in Egypt, a developing country, so my father did some research, sent my X-Rays to other doctors in Germany, Switzerland and Dubai, but surgery was unavoidable and they all recommended that surgery should be done by Dr. Youssry El Hawary. 

So the date was set and of course I kept reading before my operation about the possible complications, I watched the surgery itself, called patients who had undergone the surgery with Dr. Youssry and I watched several scoliosis journeys on Youtube.I then decided to make my own video of my journey. Since I realized that most of the videos I watched were for patients in the United States of America and Europe, so I wanted to do something as an Egyptian for Arabs and for the world; as it sure would have reassured me more if I had watched a video of a patient from Egypt who had undergone the surgery with my same surgeon. December 6th 2010 was the biggest day of my life; the start of a journey that would change my life forever. At the age of 13, I was undergoing major surgery to correct my spine. I abandoned my passion; volleyball, for the sake of my health. Yet, it was worth it, maybe I didn’t see it then, but I see it now. The surgery was indeed difficult. The surgeons fixed my back with 11 titanium screws and 2 metal rods.
Taking an action Throughout my recovery I read incessantly about scoliosis and I realized that scoliosis is a very common back deformity that people don’t know about until their case becomes too severe and too complicated that major surgery becomes their only solution. So I realized that early detection for scoliosis is extremely vital. If the complications raised by scoliosis could be prevented simply by detecting the curve early enough, then why not raise the awareness? If early detection is the key, then why not spread the awareness? So it was that moment that I decided to spread awareness about scoliosis. However, living in such a developing country has severe limitations. Poverty, poor education, neglected or improper screenings aresome of the many obstacles that Egyptian children face. How could I possibly spread awareness if many school routine checkups are denied?This however did not discourage me, I was on a mission; my goal was to educate and prevent children from being misled, mistreated or misdiagnosed.So I researched thoroughly, conducted several surveys, questionnaires and interviews in order to gather enough information but I realized that not only are people unaware of scoliosis, there are also common myths and false misconceptions about it that it comes from doing certain habits. Which is incorrect as a curve never develops from habits unless a person initially has it.I then got my information verified by a doctor, in order for my session to be considered credible. I then conducted an awareness session for parents and I even taught them how to perform the Adam’s bend test. Fortunately, I had connections to other patients in other cities, which led to some being interested and consequently conducting their own awareness sessions in their schools. I also appeared in a live TV show with Dr. Youssry, of which I got to talk about my journey and my project. This TV appearancealso helped spread the awareness about scoliosis.
Reflection This surgery forced me to press pause in my life. It has given me the chance to think about my life, my career, and my goals. It was so agonizing to finally realize and accept that all that I had ever longed for throughout my childhood, was now gone. To this day, I still miss volleyball, yet I believe that this chapter of my life is over and it is time to let it go. This surgery gave me the chance to realize how interested I am in studying medicine. It has influenced me into choosing my field of study. Therefore when my surgeons knew about my growing interest, they wanted to support me so they gave me the opportunity to attend two surgeries with them and to attend the 2nd Mediterranean Conference on Bone Augmentation and Injectable Therapeutics. This allowed me towitness how experts from all over the world could gather with one shared goal, to make people’s lives better. It was a great feeling being among them, I admired them, their personalities, their jobs, their work; I fell in love with this field, with this life. I will do whatever it takes to reach my goals. This conference also led me to hope that scoliosis and such similar illnesses will be cured more efficiently in the coming years. Doctors will find newer and better measures. They are the eyes that don’t sleep at night. Innovation is their constant way of living.
Hence I consider fixing my back, attending the surgeries and the conference major turning points in my life.
Although this surgery has taken the one thing I loved most, yet it has replaced it with a new path, a new goal and a totally new life. The surgery opened my eyes to different things, it showed me that everything happens for a reason and that the future still carries buried treasures, so I do have to make sacrifices in order to find these treasures. It also taught me that what might seem ugly, might actually turn out to be the best thing that has ever happened. After doing the surgery I felt that my world had stopped, that I had no goal, no ambition and nothing to look forward to. Yet, 3 years later, I do realize that this is probably the best thing that has ever happened to me, yes it has changed the course of my life; yet to the better.The surgery taught me that nothing is eternal; things do change on a dime. But no matter where the change puts us, we have to adapt and we have to embrace each change and each difficulty, as an opportunity, because, “Even the best laid plans often go array and leave us with nothing but grief and pain for promised joy.” yet, as my amazing mother constantly told me –quoting from John Lennon- “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”