My Name is Zak and I was fourteen years old and at that age my manhood was beginning to blossom. Girls became part of my constant thought every day. Yes, the girls told me I was very good looking with my curly blond hair and soft white complexion. Had these glistening straight white teeth which added to my infectious smile. I was shy and did not understand anything about what good looks were all about. Competitive swimming was my sport and I had made the team since I was 10. One summer afternoon we had just finished a practice and were changing in the dressing room. I bent down to pick up my bathing trunks and Dan; my best friend said with a gasp that I had a hump in the top right side of my back. I stood up very quickly in dismay and tried to turn my head around to see what he was talking about, but of course I could not see behind my back. All the boys gathered round and demanded I bend over again. Now I immediately became self conscious with all this attention and in the confusion I just bent over. They all immediately agreed with Dan. John said that I should better tell your mom about it. All I wanted to do was get dressed and get out of there. Fear set in immediately, what were my friends talking about? I better tell my mom about this strange incident. At dinner that night I coolly mentioned to my mom what had happen that afternoon and she instantly had me bend over, pull my shirt up and inspect me. She shouted out that my back looked crooked and I did have a hump.
The next day an appointment was made with our general doctor and he immediately made an appointment with an orthopedic specialist. He said he thought I had Scoliosis, a curvature of the spine and my back was starting to look like an ‘s’. This was not good news. He mentioned a brace or surgery but I was in such fear that it did not sink in at the time. All I wanted to do was get out of there.
Two weeks later I was doing all that bending all over again. X-rays were taken of my back from all sides. I was now wishing I had never told my mom anything. After what seemed eternity we were seated in the specialist’s office with all the x-rays up on a viewing light on the wall. He looked right at me and said Zak we have caught your Scoliosis in the early stages with a 12% curve at the top of my spine and a 16% curve in the lower part. Now I was really scared. But he said he was going to fit me with a Milwaukee Brace that I had to wear for 23 hours a day and he was hoping my curve would not progress and I was to continue to wear it until my spine had stopped growing. I asked how long that might be. About three to five years he said calmly. My mom then asked what would happen if my curve progressed. Surgery! What would the girls think of me with a brace on my back? Surly they won’t see it. The specialist also made an appointment with an orthodontist before and on the same day as my fitting of the brace. It was not my teeth that were crooked. He asked if I would leave the office so he could talk to my mom alone. What were they talking about?
Well, it all started moving pretty fast after my diagnosis. Went to the orthodontist and had an impression made of my upper and lower jaw. I gagged. I then found myself in this white room with this large plastic cloth spread over the floor. A young man stepped into the room dressed in white scrubs and said his name is Delbert and in a light hearted voice said he was going to plaster me up. What was happening to me? A large frame was wheeled into the room and I was told to get undressed, “for what?” Stockinet was then slipped over my head and pulled down to below my knees. I could not see a thing. He found my mouth and cut a small slit to let me breath. I was guided over to the frame and my arms were hoisted up and placed onto this poll like thing and I immediately felt stretched out. Measurements were taken.
I’m not sure what was going on as I could not see. I heard the sounds of sloshing water and then I felt him start wrapping my hips with wet bandages. This was weird. Now it was starting to feel real tight all over my body. I felt this pressure on my hips and could feel my body being pushed real straight and the plaster of paris started getting warmer. After a long period of time I could hear a saw like sound and then he gently open the cast up and I was free. Back at home I asked my mom what this Milwaukee brace was and why I had to go to the orthodontist, but she said it was better to wait until the day of the fittings and I would find out all about it. My life was in action at school with many extra mural activities such as swimming, acting in the school play and pursuing my new fascination with girls. I nearly forgot all about those braces as I did not really know what they were. How could I be in fear of something I did not know? Two weeks passed and Monday morning arrived for my fittings. My mom wanted to go into the dressing room with me but I was a man and I wanted to do this on my own.
In came this young man Delbert who had cast me before and again with a jovial voice he said he was going to straighten out my life that day. He told me to get undressed and stand on a small platform that was placed so my back was facing the door and he then left the room. He came back and opened this silver metal leather thing in the front me. I had no time to see what it looked like. I felt this snug shell fit into my waste and heard him looping some straps at the back of the brace. He said now breath in as deep as possible and there was a sudden tightening sensation on my stomach and above my hips, so much so that I could hardly breathe out. I could feel this pressure pushing down on my hips. Then the next strap and my hips began to feel immobilized. Then the next strap and my bottom was pushed forward and it stayed that way. I felt off balance as though I was going to fall backward. Now for the first time I could feel there was something around my neck. I tried to look down but could just see this metal bar disappearing into my compressed stomach. A rush of fear overcame my thoughts. What was this thing around my neck? Just then he appeared in front of me with a wrench like thing in his hand. He started to undo something on this metal bar and then I felt this leather pad hit my chin. It jerked my head upward. What was this thing under my chin? There was not anything wrong with my chin and the fresh smell of leather became evident. I suddenly could not look down.
This must be the wrong brace. The problem was behind my back not in front of my body. He then went behind me and started to loosen what seemed to be some more bars. With one movement I felt my head being pushed forward and I could feel a strangling sensation from this pad under my chin. Now I could not move my head at all. At once I felt the pressure on my hips and the feeling of my head being hoisted high up above my body.
For the first time he spoke and said that it looked real good so far. I was just able to say that this was a mistake and found that I had a tough time opening my jaw to speak. He immediately said that any questions could be directed to the orthopedic specialist not him. He was just the technician. He was at my side now and I could feel a leather pad at the right side of my shoulder blade tighten. He attached it to the front. Then a pad pulled tight on the left side of my ribs. All this just made my body even more immobile. I felt I could not move an inch. Get off the platform and try and bend forward he said. I realized I could not look down to see where the platform ended and instinctively tried to bend forward to see the drop. At that moment my feet hit the floor with a thud as I had misjudged the height. The pad under my chin slammed me up again. I now bent forward from below my waist and he inspected something. My whole body felt like this cage had control over me. Now sit down on this chair so I can check your girdle. My bottom touched the chair and my head was pushed up into the chin pad and the two pads behind my head. I felt the bottom of the brace dig deep into the front of my thighs and I started to sway a little as my back did not touch the back of the chair. My eyes were starting to do all the work as I could not move my head to look in any direction. He said that that looked good. Now get dressed young Zak and we will see you in the waiting room.
Now I was alone and what had just happened to me started to sink in. This was real and I could now not be a normal teenager again. What would the girls think? Getting dressed was a whole new experience. I had to sit down and find my feet to put my undies and pants on without seeing them. I finally got both my feet in the appropriate holes and somehow managed to pull them up. Were my pants on or not? Yes, they were buttoned up but I could not feel them as I had this brace between me and my pants. I got my shirt on and had a hard time matching the buttons with the button holes as I could not look down. I was able to shuffle my feet around to find my saddles and slip them on with ease. I started to the door and found I walked very differently than usual. I had to kind of slide my feet forward as I had no movement in my hips and my body tilted forward. I thought this must look real strange. I spotted the door knob from a distance and bent forward to open the door. I found it first time.
My mom had a stack of papers on instructions which we were to go over with the specialist the next day. We were now to go over to the orthodontist and then to come back two hours later to see if the brace fitted properly and there were no sore spots.
By coincidence the orthodontist’s office was within walking distance from where we were about 3 blocks or so. I got to the steps of the building that lead down to the side walk. I stopped. Where were they, I could not look down to find them. I looked for a rail but there was nothing to hang onto. My mom took my hand and counted the steps as I nervously stepped down on each. One, two, three, four, five and then the ground. What a relief. I started walking and all I could see was in the distance nothing up close. People must be looking at me. But I could not look around to see if they were.
I could not walk fast at all and I could feel how this brace was pressing on different parts of my body. It kept on hitting my chin into the chin pad. Now I could feel the cold sweet running down my back into my new brace. We finally reached the orthodontist office and I saw some kids coming out. For the first time I could see someone staring at me. I could see the tremendous shock on their faces. Was I that weird? In we went and I sat down while my mom went up to confirm my appointment. I could not lean back to reach the back of the bench. Where do I put my hands? I fumbled with my one hand on the side of the bench to find a magazine and lifted it up to my eye level to try and look at the pictures. I had to hold it with both hands. My arms got tired very quickly and I dropped the magazine down.
A 6 year old boy come in and sat down on the other side of the room and just stared at me. He could not take his eyes off me. This was very embarrassing and I started to feel very self conscious. I must be very different from everybody else.
Zak, the assistant called from the other room. I tried to get up and it took me a while to straighten up. Walked into the room and there I was. In a full length mirror on the other side of the wall. This huge leather pad under my chin attached to this inch wide metal bar with a metal ring around my neck holding it all together. My head was tilted way up and my body looked out of proportion with this thick waist and no neck line. This was my Milwaukee brace. I was in shock. I looked like a man from mars. I tried to sit down in the chair and my head would not tilt back to fit into the head rest, the orthodontist quickly moved the chair upright. That was better. He came in and said this bite plate is to be worn all the time as my Milwaukee brace would push my teeth in all directions and would destroy my beautiful smile. I opened my mouth with great difficulty. In popped this clear thing that looked like a mold of my teeth. My top teeth locked into an impression of my lower teeth. My jaw was clamped shut. My tong felt this huge smooth thing in the roof of my mouth and I could feel all my top teeth were covered by the plate. There was no space for my tong and it sank to the back of my mouth. How does that feel Zak. Some ‘sh’ and ‘th’ sounds came out of my mouth. I could not open my jaws to talk. How was I going to charm all the girls? He said it would take some time for me to learn to talk with the bite plate in, but I was to read out aloud to practice. How was I to read anything when I could hardly lift a book? I got up and realized I could not close my lips and saw this metal band in front of my teeth. The only thought I had was how ugly I looked with all these braces on. I surely must have been good looking before.
Whath will sh girlth sthay when shay thee me now. Imm nosh goin tsh wear heeth bratheth.
Oh yes you are my mom said.