In Her Own Words: Kate Schumacher

Published on 
September 27, 2016

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I am Kate Schumacher, and I am honored to have the chance to share my story and my journey. I am 15 and a freshman at Marymount High School. I have a twin brother Joe, and he goes to Loyola High School. I am currently on the Marymount Freshman Volleyball Team and the Southern California Volleyball Club team. During my free time, I enjoy spending time with my friends and going to the beach. My favorite activities are playing volleyball, swimming, reading, horseback riding and volunteering. In addition, I am very passionate about helping others. For example, last Christmas, a group of my friends and I raised over $1,000 for an underprivileged Catholic school located in downtown Los Angeles. With the money, we bought toys for all the students in the kindergarten through eighth grade at the school. Also, another group of my friends, who have undergone scoliosis surgery, designed a website. It allows people who are dealing with scoliosis to read our stories, learn more about the condition, and contact us if they have any questions or concerns.  

chla-kate-schumacher-ziplining.jpgWhen I was in fourth grade, I had my yearly physical, and my pediatrician informed my family that I should see an orthopaedic surgeon in Torrance. I saw that doctor for eight months and had several X-rays. The results reflected that I had scoliosis. At that time, I had no idea what that word meant, but it frightened me. During the months of all of those doctors appointments, seeing what was best for me and my family, a close friend referred us to Dr. David Skaggs and told us that he was a wonderful and caring doctor.

A few months later, I had my first appointment with Dr. Skaggs. I was very nervous because I didn’t know what to expect, but when I got to his office my anxiety left because all the staff made me feel at ease. I went into a hospital room and waited for a nurse. My family and I talked to a nurse, and she asked me if I had experienced any pain or discomfort. I answered no because I have never experienced pain in my back. I took a few X-rays and discussed them with Dr. Skaggs. He clearly stated that I had scoliosis and that he and his staff would do whatever it took to make me feel comfortable.     

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During future doctors’ appointments, we discussed having an MRI. We scheduled the MRI, and the results confirmed that I had scoliosis, and my curve at that time was about 25 degrees. Dr. Skaggs spoke to my family about the basics of scoliosis, how it is corrected, and my options of wearing a brace. We discussed using a back brace, but ultimately I chose not to wear one.

I saw Dr. Skaggs every 6-8 months for a check-up to monitor my curve. Unfortunately, with each visit, my curve was gradually increasing. At one of my appointments, Dr. Skaggs and his team decided it was time to mention spinal fusion surgery for my scoliosis. When they brought up this topic, I was trying to hold my tears back because I had heard about people who had the surgery, but I never thought that I would be one of them. In the middle of my seventh grade year, I had a check-up, and my curve was at about 50 degrees. Dr. Skaggs and my family decided that it was time for spinal fusion surgery. I was petrified, but the plus side was that I would grow two inches taller and my back would be straight.

My surgery was scheduled for the early morning of March 17, 2015. I was extremely nervous the morning before surgery, since I had to get my blood drawn and all vitals checked. On March 17, I woke up at 5 a.m. and I felt very unsettled. However on the way to the hospital all I could think about was waking up in six hours and knowing that I would not have scoliosis anymore. The nurse gave me a gown, and I sat on a hospital bed. Then the nurse gave me some medicine to help me relax. All I remember after that was being wheeled into the surgical room.

chla-kate-schumacher-jumping.jpgSix hours later, I was in the recovery room with my parents. Then shortly afterwards, I was taken to my hospital room. I felt stiff, sore, and a little emotionally upset, but I had no pain. Throughout my time in the hospital, family and friends visited, and that made me really happy. I also had awesome therapy dogs! The dogs walked along side of me and before I knew it, my walking therapy was done. Those special dogs really motivated me to walk up and down the halls, and I truly recommend that all people who go through scoliosis surgery have the assistance of therapy dogs.

I spent four days in CHLA. Right before I left, the nurses made sure everything was normal. They took out my IVs and went over my home care. Then the nurse wheeled me to the car. As soon as I got home, I was so happy to get in my own bed and to see my family and friends. However, I was very, very tired. After a month, I was glad to go back to school. It took a few days to feel comfortable. As I got stronger I started to really miss playing volleyball. During my next check-up Dr. Skaggs released me to play again. In June 2015 I played in my first volleyball tournament—just three and half months after my surgery!

This past April I had my one-year post-surgery check-up with Dr. Skaggs. Dr. Skaggs was very pleased with my check-up, and he gave me a thumbs up to move on. My back feels wonderful, and I have no limitations. My scar looks great and I have no pain or discomfort. Hats off to Dr. Skaggs for being an amazing doctor/surgeon and being so supportive throughout my journey! Thank you, thank you!!! Also, a very big thank you to Allison, Elaine, and all the staff at CHLA. They are amazing!

How you can help

To help kids just like Kate, consider making a donation to Children's Hospital Los Angeles. Visit CHLA.org/Donate.