A 75 degree spinal curve
At the age of 10, Mary was diagnosed with scoliosis. If left untreated, it could cause severe pain and sometimes result in death.
"Mary’s curve was at 75 degrees. So if you think of a right angle at 90 degrees, you can get an idea of how dramatic it was." – Patrick, Mary’s father
Aside from physical limitations caused by scoliosis, there was a heavy emotional burden for her to carry.
"It was hard, especially in middle school. You want to be normal…outside playing with your friends." –Mary
For close to five years, Mary spent 16 hours a day in a brace with the hopes the device would correct her spinal malformation. But she paid a price, as the brace brought unwelcome attention to her condition.
"I remember there was one boy on the school bus…who said ‘you look so crooked, you don't look normal, you look really weird.’" –Mary
Despite vigilant use of her brace, her scoliosis only worsened, and soon it was apparent the only possible method of correction was surgery. The news was discouraging to say the least.
"I had no illusions that this wasn’t an easy surgery. I knew it was very difficult, long and involved." –Sally, Mary’s mom
For Mary and the rest of the family, the days and months leading up to the surgery marked a difficult but powerful time in their lives.
Surgery – a last resort
"The biggest risk and fear families and kids go through is that you are dealing with the spinal cord, or the spinal column that supports the spinal cord. The biggest fear is paralysis and neurologic injury."
– Gregory White, MD, PC, Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon
So on March 8, 2007, Mary entered the operating room, her future – her life – were literally in the hands of Dr. White.
When she saw Mary being wheeled into surgery, Sally was very worried.
The significance of the day was lost on no one.
"We’ve been married 27 years. This was probably the most challenging moment we’ve had." –Patrick, Mary’s father
During Mary’s surgery, Dr. White inserted screws into the small bones of the spine that go from the back of the spine past the spinal cord into the front of the spine. Surgeons then unrotated the spine straightening it out.
When Dr. White came out the operating room, Mary’s parents could tell immediately he was upbeat, even before his first words were spoken.
He showed the concerned parents a small X-ray of the rods and inserted screws, and what was now a very straight spine. According to Dr White, Mary set a new personal record for him for the number of screws used during surgery.
"Mary received excellent care. Not only from Dr. White, who was as we anticipated, awesome, but everyone that came through our door. Everyone cared about Mary as a person." –Sally
The record-breaking endeavor was significant for Mary, too. She’s now doing everything she’s ever wanted – including being a member of her high school’s state champion badminton team – without the heavy physical and emotional toll that once weighed her down.
"She has her whole life ahead of her, to embrace life, and live it any way she would like. It’s just a joy to see her so healthy." –Sally
Needless to say, Mary no longer needs a brace. She finds all the support and strength she needs from her family and within herself.