21 years old, lives with Spondylolisthesis

“My name is Hannah and I am 21 years old. Since I was young, I have had back pain. Despite my symptoms no doctor thought it was necessary to do an x-ray. It took 11 years for me to receive a diagnosis. At the age of 15 I was diagnosed with severe spondylolisthesis, a condition in which bones of the spinal column have slipped out of place. Something that’s very rare for my age. Over the years, the condition had progressed to a point where I was about to be paralysed. I had to go abroad to have surgery immediately.

The surgery wasn’t the beginning of a new lease on life. It was the beginning of a fight for survival and a race against time. I developed a Staphylococcus infection in my lumbar spine. The bacteria stayed there for 8 months before anybody noticed. The excruciating pain I was in post-surgery was not taken seriously. I had to have last minute emergency surgery. My lumbar spine was literally swimming in pus. Over the years, I have had multiple other major surgeries abroad.

The disease has turned my whole life upside down. I have chronic pain and opiates have become my constant companion Without warning I was catapulted from the life of a carefree teenager to a completely different world. Losing my friends and essentially my adolescence hit me very hard. It didn’t take long for depression to set in. That is how I discovered art and started painting. My art helped me heal my emotional scars.

My story with this disease is not over yet. But I am thankful that despite the pain I can stand upright today. You can’t see what I have been through from the outside, which means that I have to justify myself in many situations.

I know all too well how living with a rare condition can make you feel left alone. That’s why I am reaching out a virtual hand to everyone who is in a similar situation. Our lives with a chronic illness unfortunately often feel like living in a different dimension.

I would also like to wholeheartedly thank ALAN for their support, which provided a very positive aspect to my story! “

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