What an AMAZING story. Congratulations to Rachel Torne. She is our Fulton Homes Be KOOL Stay in School winner this week. Rachel – KOOL is proud of your stenghth. You have very special parents to have raised such a wonderful young lady.
Hello-I would like to nominate my daughter, Rachel, for your Be Kool Stay in School contest. My daughter is Rachel Torne and is 14 years old. Rachel is in 8th grade at Mesquite Jr. High in Gilbert.
Rachel’s story started when she was 8 years old and diagnosed with Scoliosis. X-rays and doctor appointments were frequent for the next 3 years after which we were told Rachel’s Scoliosis had progressed to the point she would have to go into a Back Brace 20 hours a day, 7 days a week, for up to 3 years! 3 years is FOREVER to an 11 year old and since we live in the Arizona heat, we knew this would not be easy! When we went to the Brace Specialist, we found out we had the option to have Rachel wear a Night Brace instead of the brace 20 hours a day. The Night Brace was much more aggressive and would be extremely restrictive, but after talking it over, Rachel, my husband, and I decided it was the better choice for her. Braces have to be molded to the body like a cast, so we had the mold made and 2 weeks later she started wearing it 10 hours a night. Rachel had to lay down to get this brace on and it bent her so far to the side she could not stand up in it-still, she preferred to wear something only 10 hours a night instead of 20 hours a day. After a few weeks Rachel started having terrible nerve pain on her back and the doctor determined the brace was bending her in a way that it was pinching a nerve. They could not guarantee us this would not cause permanent damage, so we had no choice but to switch over to the Day Brace. Again, molded for the brace and she went into her first Day Brace to be worn 20 hours a day, every single day! I say first because as a child grows, they need a new brace-Rachel went through 3 Day Braces!
Rachel was amazing through this whole process! Here she was, 11 years old, going into 6th grade, knowing she would possibly have to wear this brace for 3 years yet she never complained! Rachel wore her brace every day, only going without it for special occasions like Class Trips and sleepovers. Friends would ask me how she could do it, and I would tell them she knew she just had to. If Scoliosis can’t be stopped, then surgery is the next step and all 3 of us wanted to avoid surgery.
As if that wasn’t enough for an 11 year old to deal with, at this same time we found out some health issues Rachel had been having were due to a Milk Allergy she had. After many tests we were told to take Rachel off ALL DAIRY! What does an 11 year old eat if not pizza, Mac & cheese or grilled cheese! Dairy is in almost everything and she could have none of it! Within 2 weeks Rachel went from your average 11 year old to a girl in a bulky brace who had to watch every piece of food she ate! Still, after a few tears, she did not complain-again, knowing she just had to do it.
Wearing a brace and only being able to eat certain foods was bad enough in Elementary School, BUT, Junior High was a totally different story! Nobody gave her too bad a time about her dietary needs, but the brace was a different story. Name calling, teasing, and trying to grab the brace away from her when she had to leave it off for a while after PE were now a normal part of her day. This was not an easy time by any means, but still, Rachel did not complain.
By the end of 7th grade Rachel’s Scoliosis had progressed to the point that she needed surgery. Twenty hours a day, 7 days a week for almost 2 years and it had not stopped the Scoliosis! Rachel was actually the one who told us and her doctor that she wanted the surgery, she was tired of the brace and the pain. The pain was so bad some days she could barely stand. She wanted the surgery so she could “be a normal kid”. After discussing everything with the surgeon, it was decided, in May 2010, that she would have the surgery Dec 17, 2010. The surgery is called Spinal Fusion and it corrects Scoliosis by straightening the spine. The doctors told us this is a very painful surgery and very painful and long recovery. Knowing that, Rachel was still ready to do it. A bright spot in all this-after a year and a half of being totally dairy free, Rachel had outgrown her allergy and could go back to all foods! Finally, happy news!
Rachel’s surgery was at Phoenix Children’s Hospital Dec 17 and it started at 8am. Over 3 1/2 hours 2 Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeons operated on Rachel. They fused her spine from T4-L2, attached 2 metal rods to the spine that were held in place by 24 screws. Standing up the morning after surgery and walking 2 days later were the most painful things I have ever seen-and yet-Rachel told us she was glad she did it! Any movement caused pain but move was what she had to do to improve, so she did it-most times through tears of pain. After 6 days in the hospital Rachel came home to continue her recovery. There was still a lot of pain but she worked hard and every day we could see little improvements. Through all of this Rachel worked very hard and kept up with her school work. She was an 8th grader in Honors Classes and there was a lot of work. Some days she would do school work for 4-5 hours taking breaks to get up and walk off the healing pains. She was determined to keep up with her classes and she didn’t give up. 5 1/2 weeks after surgery, Rachel went back to school (2 of the weeks home was Christmas Break). For the first 3 weeks back, she was only allowed to attend half days so there was more school missed and more make up work. Again, she worked hard at her recovery and her school work and when Progress Reports came out, Rachel had maintained her Straight A’s!
When you have Spinal Fusion surgery you are not considered fully recovered for 9-12 months. Rachel is almost back to doing everything she did before but there are still doctor appointments, x-rays, and varying degrees of pain yet, she does not complain! All of these things will end in the next 6 months or so and then she will have achieved her goal. Rachel will be just a normal kid!
I thank you for your consideration.
Mary Anne Torne