The sickly smell of antiseptic overwhelms the air. My body is still weak from the heavy sedation and constant influx of pain medications. I am so weak, I can hardly feel my legs. The only thought running through my mind is that I’ll never regain enough strength to ever walk, dance, frolic, or even stand again. There could be nothing so stomach-wrenching, so painful, so infuriating, as lying in this hospital bed with the sensations of tiny needles prodding into my torso and the nauseating scent of vomit, plastic, and agony that every hospital emits.

Just then, the outline of a white-coated figure through bright fluorescent lights finds its way into my line of bleary sight, another piece of my body that isn’t performing as optimally as it once did. As the white figure comes closer, I remember why the shape of this body in particular is so painstakingly familiar to me. The figure and I have spent many countless hours in doctor’s offices, examining x-rays, discussing treatment plans and how they will affect my future. The friendly face of my wide-eyed and bushy-tailed surgeon – who, regardless of nine hours in surgery, looks young and crisp while I lie there, resembling something close to death warmed over with mucus outlining my nostrils and bags underlining my eyes – peers down at me. I expect comforting words such as, ‘you did so well,’ or ‘everything turned out just beautifully.’ Anything would have been music to my ears in comparison to the foul words that escaped his lips.

“Are you ready to walk?”

I laugh meekly, and suddenly his usually cheerful, jubilant demeanor has transformed into one of pure seriousness. Surely he had to be joking. I just had two titanium rods fused onto my crooked spine! How could I even learn to stand barely twenty-four hours later, let alone walk?

He smiles as he reaches out his arms, and I reluctantly grab ahold to help myself up, all the while glancing at my mother on the other side of me, hoisting me off the bed with great vigor. Blood rushes to my head as I rise as if I were a newborn giraffe learning how to walk. My legs feel like foreign appendages, jellylike and uncooperative. I make it two microscopic steps, each of which feels like two miles, before I feel my legs buckle, and I practically collapse onto the hospital bed nearby. I receive congratulatory looks of pride from my doctor and my parents in the room with me, looks that say I’ve accomplished so much more than two mere baby steps that day. With those encouraging faces staring back at me, I realize that I am more than capable of regaining my strength, and every day I will take more and more baby steps, determined to reach my goal.

Those first few steps after my scoliosis surgery were like the first steps of my impending adulthood. The cold, tiled hallway of Roanoke Memorial Hospital was my own pathway to maturity. I do not think that had my parents not decided to go through with the surgery that I would be the person I am today. Before, I was a child, only a two year veteran of middle school, meek, self-doubting, and entirely unaware of all that I would accomplish in my high school years to come. Today, I consider myself an eager, confident young person, fully capable of anything I wish to accomplish. I am not yet an adult, for I still have much to learn. The strong impact my surgery had on my life is what I believe prepared me to take those further strides into adulthood.