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UC teen shares inspirational story of scoliosis journey with video

UC teen shares inspirational story of scoliosis journey with video
UC teen shares inspirational story of scoliosis journey with video | UC teen shares inspirational story of scoliosis journey with video
Staff Reporter
Abby Bruff’s story just might inspire someone else.
At least she hopes so.
The 13-year-old is sharing the story of her journey with scoliosis — a curvature of the spine — through an impressive YouTube video she recently created.
Abby is the daughter of Gordon and Amanda Bruff of Union City and is an eighth-grader at Union City Middle School.
She was three years old when she was diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis, an abnormal curve of the spine which developed for unknown reasons. It was discovered by a pediatrician who thought she saw something unusual and sent the family to a Memphis doctor — who told the Bruffs their daughter had a 19-degree curve at that point and put their little girl in a brace.
Abby wore the restrictive braces — tight corset-type devices — through the end of her second-grade year of school.
When Abby first started wearing a brace, she didn’t wear it 24 hours a day because it would have prohibited the development of her rib cage, Mrs. Bruff said. She started off sleeping in it and, as she got older, would wear it a certain number of hours each day.
Abby would remove the brace to participate in competitive cheerleading, tennis and other activities she enjoyed. Unlike some scoliosis patients, she never really experienced any pain with her condition.
After second grade, Abby underwent surgery — a vertebral body stapling that allowed internal bracing and got her out of a brace. The stapling held her spine around 36 to 40 degrees for the next four years, but in the sixth grade she began to see a rapid progression and it was to about 60 degrees by the end of her seventh-grade year.
A second surgery — a spinal fusion — was scheduled for July 10 of this year. The day before surgery, her curve measured 68 degrees.
When it became apparent the second surgery was inevitable, Abby chose to have it before she entered high school so the surgery and recovery wouldn’t interfere with her active lifestyle. She specifically chose to have it over the summer between her seventh- and eighth-grade years so she wouldn’t miss the start of school.
Plus, the longer she waited, the more difficult it might have been to straighten her curvature.
“We made the decision with her. It was time to do it,” Mrs. Bruff said.
Before surgery, Abby squeezed in as much summer activity as absolutely possible, though — including tennis camp and visits to the beach and the lake with family and friends.
Abby underwent the second surgery — which involved the placement of rods and screws for a spinal fusion — at world-renowned Shriners Hospital in St. Louis. The procedure took over seven hours.
She recalled she had the surgery on a Tuesday and the hospital staff had her up and walking by the third day, telling her walking was the best therapy. She came home to Union City just five days later.
“She did really good,” her mother said. “They’d say she had to walk two times (in a day) and she’d walk four or five. She’d say, ‘Let me walk,’ because she wanted to get better.”
Abby returned home post-op without a brace but with restrictions — including no heavy lifting or strenuous activity for a full year while the fusion fully heals. She returns for a checkup in March and, in the meantime, is stretching as much as she can.
Just four weeks after surgery, Abby started school with her classmates this past August.
She has returned to regular school cheerleading but, for now, has stopped the more intense extreme cheerleading. After she fully heals, there is the possibility she may be able to do some tumbling, although probably not anything too demanding.
As far as tennis, Abby hopes to be able to play by the time she starts high school. For now, since she is not supposed to run or jump or jar her body, she is able to stand and hit tennis balls.
My motivation
Prior to her surgery, Abby was inspired by YouTube videos others had posted about their recoveries from similar surgeries. They showed them returning to many of the activities they enjoyed pre-surgery.
Thinking ahead, the Bruffs began to compile photos and video snippets chronicling Abby’s own journey before and after surgery, saving them for the day when Abby would decide to make her own video.
Abby said she made the video “to show people what I’d been through,” while her mother said the process was also therapeutic for Abby and a way for her to deal with her experience.
“It really helped her get through it,” Mrs. Bruff said. “She could see that girls her age had gone through it and they were fine, and they were an inspiration to her, so she wanted to do the same for others.”
Bruff said his teenage daughter took the initiative in researching her surgery and recovery period beforehand, finding other patients’ YouTube accounts of their surgeries and drawing inspiration from them.
“I think, for Abby’s sake, she took it upon herself to look that up. That part’s pretty impressive,” he said.
The teen created her own video using a program on her iMac computer, carefully choosing just the right photos, video clips and music for the motivational piece. She selected two songs: “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus and “Firework” by Katy Perry.
The well-orchestrated video — listed as “Abby’s Scoliosis Journey” on YouTube — tells Abby’s inspiring story from start to finish in a concise six minutes and 51 seconds.
It begins with Abby getting fitted for her first brace and ends with the July surgery, including a photo showing the long scar down her back and the x-rays of her spine “before” at 68 degrees and “after” surgery at less than 20 degrees.
Sandwiched in between are word frames which succinctly detail the treatment she received over the years and brief captions to explain photos with particular significance. She incorporated photos of family and friends, as well as shots showing her doing competitive and school cheerleading, tennis and leisure activities.
“We tried to tell a lot in a little bit,” Mrs. Bruff said.
Abby posted the video on Nov. 4. and, as of Wednesday afternoon, it had received over 520 views.
“I could watch this over and over,” Mrs. Bruff said as she watched the video one evening last week, occasionally brushing away a tear.
The video ends with a Bible verse, also carefully chosen by Abby and her family.
As the music fades, the last frame of Abby’s video shifts to the encouraging words of Philippians 4:13 — a message of faith the Bruffs hope will also inspire others.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by email at
Published in The Messenger 12.6.12