Scoliosis, which is a curve in the spine, has caused Ysabel Brown to live in constant pain for years. In the past, she tried alternative treatments, but in 2020 the pain got so bad that she wanted to undergo spinal surgery so she could live a pain-free life.
In Season 15, her dad Kody Brown at first pushed back about the surgery because of his COVID-19 concerns and then told her to go have surgery alone. He later revealed that he didn’t take Ysabel’s surgery seriously because he thought her mom Christine was using it to manipulate him.
On Sunday night’s episode (Season 16, Episode 3) he now sees Ysabel’s surgery as necessary but asks her to not end up as a “bitter old housewife” because he won’t attend her surgery or recovery. In using this sarcastic language, Kody is acknowledging that he could be causing long-term trauma to Ysabel for not being there for her when she wants him to be but is shifting all of the responsibility for her future emotional pain to her instead of himself. Since he is the father, and she is the child, this is an intense power dynamic and maybe even an act of gaslighting for the future. A child cannot promise that they won’t be affected in the future by actions the parent makes in the present, and it isn’t a child’s fault if they are traumatized in the future by things that are happening in the present. With this turn of phrase he also seems to be revealing how he views Christine.
While he’s telling her this, Ysabel says that she understands why he can’t go and that it’s fine, but in interview, she breaks down in tears questioning why he can’t be there. She says she needs him there, and that his priorities are screwed up.
Kody says there are two reasons why he can’t visit Ysabel during her surgery: he would have to be away from the rest of the family for too long if he went because he would have to quarantine, and the risk of him contracting COVID-19. Of course, Kody has revealed that he eventually got COVID-19 anyway.
Although Ysabel got emotional about Kody not being there for her during this difficult time, she acknowledged that he had a lot of kids to worry about. Still, Ysabel says she considers her dad to be a brave man, but she sees fear controlling him right then and asks how long he’s going to “put his life on hold.”
In September 2020 Christine and her daughter Trueley traveled with Ysabel to New Jersey to get her surgery, which was a huge success. Because of Ysabel’s recovery time and Kody’s requirements for quarantine, he would not have been able to see Truely and Ysabel for about two months. Although Ysabel wanted her dad to be there, Christine was happy that he wasn’t coming.
They also left right when there was a major rift between Kody and Christine over her desire to move to Utah. At that point, Christine didn’t trust Kody, feel safe around him, or feel like he was even her friend. Kody had initially assumed that Christine’s urgency to get Ysabel’s surgery right away instead of waiting for COVID-19 to settle down was because of a selfish desire to go on vacation. He has since changed his opinion because it started to sink in how much day-to-day pain Ysabel had been experiencing for four years.
During episode 1 of Season 16 Christine revealed that Ysabel had plans to get a tattoo over her scar, but Christine didn’t want to tell Kody because he doesn’t approve of tattoos. Ysabel is now 18 and living with her sister Maddie in North Carolina and going to school there. She hasn’t revealed if she has gotten a tattoo yet.