Life or Death at 10 - Spine Disease

by Sarah F.

As of right now, I am 14 years old. When I was in the 4th grade, I had a life changing tragedy take place. I don't mean to scare others but I want to share my story to inspire others.

On March 14th 2008, I got up and made shamrock pancakes on St. Patricks Day for my family. Me, being so excited, ran up stairs and lifted my 40 lb little brother out of his crib when I felt a sudden "pop" in my neck. It hurt like nothing I had ever felt before. This was only the beginning.

After at least 3 days of crying and being in pain and my parents telling me I "pinched a nerve or pulled a muscle," I had enough. I told my mom I didn't want to go to school. Well, I didn't have a choice. Everyone told me I was faking and started spreading rumors that I just wanted attention.

This pain went on for weeks. My mom started to realize I wasn't pretending because I wasn't moving my neck at all anymore. It was stuck. No matter what I did, I couldn't turn my head. So after this, we went to the doctors and I had to have x-rays. They had me open my mouth as far as I could (which wasn't very far at all) so they could see the top vertebrae. After many suggestions, my mom took me to have accupuncture...never again. I didn't like needles in the first place so, it didn't go too well. Because this didn't work, i was taken to the chiropractor. He didn't pay close enough attention to my x-rays because he couldn't see the top of my spine. Of course I was scared to go there in the first place so they wouldn't believe me if I cried. I had my first adjustment and screamed like you wouldn't believe it. It hurt worse than before! Before it hurt to stand, now it hurt to lay down.

April 23rd, I finally stopped going to school after the physical and mental pain of being bullied. My mom finally had enough of seeing me in pain and ordered me to have MRI scans. I was absolutely overjoyed. Who would have thought a 10 year old would be excited to go to the hospital?

May 4th, I woke up laying on the living room floor since I hadn't been able to sleep in my own bed in weeks because I couldn't make it up the stairs. This was the day I was supposed to go to the hospital. All of my excitement went down the drain when my mother came into the house sobbing. My grandma had died just a few hours before I woke up due to a heart attack. Even though I didn't want to leave my mother, my dad took me to the hospital.

Later that week, I had to go to my grandma's funeral and visitation. I had to go to the funeral home for the service in a lawn chair because I couldn't even sit up in a pew. I really felt the humiliation then.

After endless days of impatiently waiting by the phone, my doctor FINALLY called...only to tell me they wanted a CT scan for a clearer image. I was incredibly disappointed.

About a week later I went to the hospital yet again. With the same routine, I waited by the phone for weeks. After much wait, the UW Hospital located in the capital of my home state called wanting me to come up for an exam.

The next day I was in the car thinking about so many things that could happen while I was there, none of them were negative. Finally, an hour later, I had arrived. I waited in the waiting room for countless hours. Everywhere I looked, I saw dying children, cancer patients, and the sick elderly. This is when everything sunk it. I might not make it out of here.

When they called my name, my mom walked me back to the room with them and I sat on the exam table while we waited for the doctors. After about 5 minutes, 6 doctors entered my room, white as ghosts after seeing my CT scans. The main surgeon told my mother,"She shouldn't even be alive or sitting there. She should be paralyzed at the least! It doesn't make sense." After little discussion, they told my mom that I was going to have surgery and they were going to do everything in their power to make sure of it. This scared me the most. My mother and I started sobbing and called home to tell everyone we wouldn't be back for some time.

Moments later, the doctors took the exam table I was on up to Emergency ICU. After all the chaos, there was still more to come. They then entered the room with a red tool box. I thought my stomach dropped to my feet. They started holding my hands and giving me shots in my scalp to numb my head. I had no idea what was going on. Then they started measuring my head! It made no sense because my neck hurt, not my head. Everything got worse when they pulled out screw drivers. They started hand drilling 4 screws into my skull! While I was awake! I couldn't believe any of it.

After all of this madness, they hooked a 5 lb weight to the top of the medical halo, to the back of my hospital bed. Within an hour my head was straight again! So much relief was felt.

The next morning at 9 am, after no sleep, was terrifying. My bed was placed in front of a clock so it was like torture. It was like a count down until my operation. I was supposed to go in at 3pm. Everything changed once again when a nurse walked in and told my mother I was going in for surgery at 10 am instead. I didn't even have time to be scared anymore.

All I remember was crying and being scared. The next thing I remember was waking up only to hear that I have metal inside of me! They wrapped 4 titanium wires around the top 2 and took part of my shoulder blade, ground it up, and packed it all together. It turns out, the top 2 vertebrae (C1 & C2) had,"slipped off" the top of my spine and was putting pressure on my spinal cord. One wrong move in that 3 months, my cord would have snapped and I wouldn't be alive today.

After a long summer in that halo, I got it taken off. I still have metal in my neck, and will for the rest of my life. Another problem can occur at anytime in my life and I will almost guaranteed, be paralyzed at the least. I have degenerative spine disease and I am proud of it!

The basis of this whole thing is, if I can do it, you can. Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope it helped!

Comments for Life or Death at 10 - Spine Disease

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Aug 13, 2012
My heart goes out to you!
by: Jennifer

Hi there,

my heart breaks to hear what you have gone through since you were ten years old! You've been through so much. My heart breaks even more hearing that your own family, especially your mom, and friends didn't believe you and take you seriously! I know what it feels like to not be listened to or even taken seriously. And i'm glad that you've accepted your diagnosis - that way, you are proactive with your health and treatment. I hope that you are doing well now. You are in my thoughts and prayers!

May 26, 2012
broken neck
by: tedo

im 52 and been in 4 major car accidents none my fault, i had 3 spine operations, my xrays are ugly, i was in chronic pain for 15 years, all the pain pills hurt me to, the last accident fixed my neck after operation i became pain free, freak accident, never did think i would feel good again. the drunk driver that totaled both cars did not have a scratch on her. this makes no sense. we are both so lucky. maybe god had something to do with this. the doctors were amazed how my neck healed they credit god.

Sep 14, 2011
Wishing you well~
by: Anonymous

I just read your heartwarming story. I can't imagine such a young girl enduring so much. My prayers go out to you.

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