In 2009 at the age of 13, I went for my annual physical and was diagnosed with severe scoliosis. The treatment was beyond what my PCP was capable of and recommended that I go see a doctor in Boston for further evaluation.
My mother immediately booked me an appointment to see a Pediatric Orthopedic surgeon at Mass General Hospital. When I got there, I was informed that my scoliosis was so severe I was beyond bracing. I needed to have spinal fusion surgery to prevent any further damage and correct the curvature. At 13, I was just told that I needed major, life-changing surgery. My spine was to be fused from T4 to L3. The surgeon I met with, Dr. Maurice Albright (pictured above), was kind and caring. He knew I was beyond scared and took the time to explain everything to me personally, in a gentle manner so that I could understand exactly what was going to happen and so I would not be afraid. It was in that moment, within our first day of meeting, that I knew Dr. Albright was the right fit for me. To the surprise of both of my parents, I eagerly asked Dr. Albright when he could book the OR for me. I say eagerly because I found out that I needed surgery in the beginning of the summer of 2009 and I wanted to have the operation during the summer, because I did not want to have to miss school...nerdy, right? We booked the surgery for July of 2009.
I had countless MRIs before the scheduled surgery and one MRI showed that I had a pocket of fluid in my spinal cord. My surgery had to be put on hold until I could meet with a neurologist to confirm that the fluid would not cause paralysis if operated on. I was not able to meet with a neurologist until the end of the summer, but when I finally did, the fluid was deemed a non-issue and I was cleared for surgery. My surgery was scheduled for October of 2009.
I remember going into Boston for my surgery that day like it was yesterday. I was terrified, yet I had the utmost faith in Dr. Albright and Dr. Grottkau. The Zakim Bridge lit up purple that morning and I took it as a good sign; purple is one of my favorite colors. When they prepped me for surgery and wrote on my body, Dr. Grottkau picked a purple marker...another good sign in my eyes.
The surgery lasted 9 hours. It was quite possibly the longest 9 hours of my parents' lives. But, I had made it through surgery without any complications. Within a few days, I was headed back home for recovery.
During my recovery, I was fairly immobile. I had to be extremely cautious how I moved, and I could not bend my back. I was not allowed to participate in gym class for 6 months following the surgery. I gained a considerable amount of weight and I was nervous about how I would fit in as a chubby kid going into high school. Because of my surgery, I was limited athletically. I could not play any sort of contact sport, so my only option was running.
I had never run before. In fact, when they timed the mile in middle school, I was so slow that they stopped timing me!!! But when I got to high school, I joined the cross-country team. I was a little timid and nervous that I would not fit in with the runners there, but the team and the awesome coaches took me in. They constantly pushed me to do my best and give running my all.
I began running in the fall of 2010, a year following my surgery. That cross-country season I ran our 5k races in 45 minutes and walked every single race, but during that time I had fallen in love with running. I may not have been the best runner on the team, but I had found a sport that I truly enjoyed and gave it my all.
I decided to run track and field, as well, and ran the 2 Mile. During the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of high school, I trained like hell. I ran every day. I came back the next cross-country season as the fastest runner on our team, running 22 minute 5ks.
I continued running all throughout high school. I ran both cross country and track all four years of high school and was captain of our cross-country team during my junior and senior year.
I was recruited to run NCAA Division III Cross Country at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, MA, where I continued my running career for all four years of college. My senior year I was named team captain.
Since college, I have continued running. I have run numerous road races including 5ks, 10 milers, and half marathons.
On October 20th, 2019, on the tenth anniversary of my spinal fusion, I ran my first full marathon. I ran the Baystate Marathon in Lowell, MA.
I am honored to have been selected as a runner for the Mass General marathon team because I truly believe that if it was not for Mass General, I would not be running. It may sound crazy, but I consider my spinal fusion surgery to be one of the greatest events that has happened in my life. Had I not had the surgery, I would not have found running and fallen in love with this sport. Running has helped me find myself, has given me the opportunity to discover all that I am truly capable of, and for that, I am eternally grateful. Without the surgical skills of Dr. Albright and Dr. Grottkau, I would not be where I am today. 10 years post-op and without a single complication and without any pain. Mass General has given me so much and it is with extreme gratitude that I will run the 2020 Boston Marathon for Massachusetts General Hospital.