Brigette's Story (Scoliosis)
Brigette Suerig was in the fifth grade, just about to turn 10, when she was diagnosed with scoliosis during a routine physical. A specialist in New Jersey, where she and her family reside, found a “c” curve of 12 degrees and recommended that she wear a brace for 20 hours a day.
To get a second opinion, her father, Chris, consulted his father, a 35-year ER physician at Greenwich Hospital, who recommended that they come to Stamford for a consultation. “We took her to a local back doctor, who did not practice pediatrics. He in turn referred us to Dr. Rudolph Taddonio a Pediatric Scoliosis Surgeon at Stamford Hospital who is the Chief of Orthopedic Surgery,” Chris said.
While Dr. Taddonio had similar findings, instead of bracing, since the curve was small, he recommended that she follow up every four months – a process the Suerigs followed for three years. During this time, Brigette actively played competitive sports, including softball and field hockey. Then, in the summer before ninth grade, in the span of four months the curve jumped from 20 degrees to 34 degrees. It was at that point that Dr. Taddonio recommended bracing for 16 hours a day. According to Chris, the brace was made out of plastic and shaped like a corset but extended up to her neck on the back.
“I didn’t have to wear the brace to school, thank goodness, but it felt weird going over to other kids’ houses, and it was pretty uncomfortable, especially for the first few months,” Brigette said.
When her curve progressed further to 43 degrees, Dr. Taddonio recommended surgery, where he and Dr. Krishn Sharma would place two rods and 20 screws in her back. “I kind of figured I’d eventually need surgery,” she said. “I was really only nervous the night before and then the next day as I was leaving my parents and going into the OR. But everyone just kept reassuring me that everything was going to be fine, and I chose to believe that it would.”
Dr. Taddonio recalls how impressed he was by Brigette’s attitude. “After our consultation about the surgery, she was very accepting of it, as was her family. She also had great family support, which I have found is especially important when young people have spine surgery.”
“Brigette’s recovery took six months. The first month she missed school and was uncomfortable but we got her moving a bit more each day and she made ongoing progress,” Chris said. “She handled the entire process with great grace and dignity. I was extremely proud of her.”
Today, a year after her surgery, Brigette is doing very well. Her mobility is a bit limited, but she enjoys being active and keeps herself in good physical condition.
“It was definitely a difficult experience, but I stayed positive and motivated, and that made it easier to get through. I’d say the same thing to anyone else facing scoliosis surgery – stay positive and determined, and you’ll be in recovery before you know it!”