Caitlin's story about overcoming scoliosis
When Caitlin Barker was 14, her life was filled with the usual teen activities: school, friends, gymnastics and cheerleading practice. Skilled in performing challenging cheerleading stunts, the active teen never dreamed that there could be something seriously wrong with her body…until a minor injury prompted her to get X-rays. The films inadvertently revealed a worrisome problem: scoliosis, an abnormally curved spine that would require immediate treatment.
“At first I thought it was not going to be a big deal, but then I learned more about scoliosis,” Caitlin recalls. “I found out that my spine was shaped like an ‘S,’ but also kind of twisted. I started wearing a back brace every night for about a year to try to correct it, but it didn’t help. And that’s when they suggested back surgery.”
Caitlin’s mother, Maureen Barker, immediately began researching surgery for scoliosis and learned that traditional surgery involved a big incision running the length of the patient’s spine. But there was a newer, minimally invasive operation that had become available as well—and the founder of the procedure, George D. Picetti, III, M.D., was at Sutter General Hospital in Sacramento. The curvature in Caitlin’s spine was worsening, and so the Barker family made an appointment to see Sutter’s orthopedic surgeon.
“It was a huge relief to meet with Dr. Picetti and find out what the surgery entailed and what the prognosis was—which was very, very good,” says Maureen. “What Dr. Picetti and his team can do is truly an art. His attention to detail is amazing, and they were able to correct her scoliosis with just a few small incisions.” She adds, “Caitlin’s dad and I were very happy with how we were treated, how we were communicated with, and kept in the loop on everything from before the surgery, during the surgery, and the recovery.”
Today, Caitlin is a freshman in college and says, “I’m really happy that I had the surgery. I’m just as active now as I was before my diagnosis. I’m on the trampoline again and doing tumbling—my flexibility has completely come back.”
And from the teen’s perspective, there is an added benefit to Sutter’s state-of-the-art surgery: “I don’t have a big scar down my back! I just have four little incisions on my side, about an inch long. So when I go to the beach with my friends, I don’t have to worry about a giant scar. Nobody even notices them.”
I’m Caitlin Barker, and that’s my story.