From debilitating headaches to depression and neck pain, one New Jersey-based model’s 15-year struggle with scoliosis nearly destroyed her dreams before a life-changing surgery saved her.
Writer, actress and model Caroline Heinle, 30, was living in Los Angeles, waitressing to support her creative goals, when her health took a turn for the worse, Little Things reports.
“I was suffering from chronic neck and thoracic back pain, shooting and numbing pains down my arms, extreme headaches, extreme fatigue, herniated discs in my C-spine, a searing in my spinal cord, depression, hormone issues, digestive issues, and honestly the list goes on,” she wrote on her blog, Fighting For My Immunity.
At age 15, she was diagnosed with scoliosis that -- by 30 -- threatened to end her career.
“[My doctor] told me back then that I’d probably have to have surgery at some point in my life, but I don’t think I really 'heard it' until I got older,” she wrote.
Instead, she relied on the back brace she slept in every night to help her treat the symptoms.
When she reached 30, it got so bad she had to move back home to New Jersey. There, doctors informed her that in the past 15 years, her spine had shifted nearly 15 degrees, from 32 to 45 degrees.
The only solution was surgery.
“My first appointment ever with Dr. [Thomas] Errico had me in tears and I was really scared of having surgery, but I also knew that living the way I was living was no longer an option,” she said of Errico, co-director of New York University's Spine Center.
The risks were many: according to Medtronic.com, potential dangers of such a surgery can range from bowel and bladder problems to infections and nerve damage.
While it took her months to make her decision, she underwent the surgery in 2015.
She was walking only a few hours after the surgery. Three months later, she was back to modeling.
“Three months later I was back to work … on a photo shoot that pushed me, beautifully, outside of my comfort zone,” she said. “Surgery has enabled me to live life more fully and tackle the small things in life.”