Turning 8 should be easy! Although it was not too concerning for Maureen, it was a time we will never forget and began a journey that changed our family’s perspective forever.
Maureen’s yearly visit was routine, until the spinal check. Asked to bend over, she did so freely and had no hesitation. But, IT was evident, even to an amateur eye. One side of her back was clearly raised higher than the other and I gasped in disbelief. I never knew what scoliosis looked like, it was not in our family history. But it is now!
Maureen was immediately referred to Dr. Jan Klamar at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and so began a relationship that continues to this day. She had her first MRI which determined the cause and the treatment plan. It was concluded she had been born with scoliosis but on all accounts, it looked manageable. The years to come we would monitor and measure on a 4 month basis.
Maureen continued her participation and passion for athletics, and her spirit continued to grow. She was normal and healthy despite our constant worry about what might be going on inside that vibrant yet head strong demeanor.
Each visit was a chance to educate all of us on the possibilities of what was to come, and each visit mother nature worked with us and Maureen was sent away. Until August of 2011, one week before 7th grade when Maureen was told that bracing was a must. This marked the beginning of a new type of battle. But her tenacious attitude was a plus as she wore the brace 23 hours a day for two difficult, middle school years. “Syd” became an extension of her and she began to be physically more comfortable in the brace than out of it. Although it would never correct, it could prevent the degree from becoming more severe. She was a champ about it and we were hopeful.
Successful as it was, it did not hold. Four months out of the brace in Feb. of 2014, Maureen heard the dreaded news from Dr. Klamar, spinal fusion was the only option. Not necessarily now, but certainly in the near future. This hit hard for sure, but young and determined Mo had other things on her mind.
During those middle school years, Maureen’s competitive spirit had strengthened and so had her ability to swim. Three days after hearing that surgery was a must, Maureen became a OHSAA state qualifier in the 100 backstroke, the only freshman to advance in the event. Maureen finished in the top 16 in Ohio and was awarded Division 1 All Ohio that year.
On April 14, 2014 Dr. Klamar worked his magic and Maureen went through a very successful 6 hour spinal fusion moving her curve from 46 degrees to 12. The surgery team carefully placed two titanium rods around the spine and bolted her spine to them with nine bolts. She spent 5 days in the trauma unit at NCH with some spectacular doctors and nurses. Their attention and concern for Maureen was apparent. I watched in awe as they moved and comforted her while they tried to instruct her to be patient. As trying as these days were we will forever appreciate their professional wisdom.
The months that followed were a battle physically and mentally. However, the support from her team of doctors, our community of friends her teachers and coaches was incredible. Maureen set personal goals far ahead of her doctor’s goals and was back in the water much sooner than expected. She followed Dr. Klamar’s restrictions but kept moving. In October of 2014 she competed again for the first time, a week after she was permitted to touch her toes. That season she worked hard, battling to get to the top again. Maureen played lacrosse that spring and returned to the pool in late May.
By February of 2016 Maureen had achieved all personal best times in the water and reached her final goal- to be a state qualifier once again . Against the odds she battled back to the OHSAA state meet as a Junior and swam the same event that she had two long years prior, once again earning Division 1 All Ohio honors- this time faster and straighter!
All along Dr. Klamar told Maureen she would swim again, it would just be different. Maureen, along with the talented group of Spinal Orthopedics at Nationwide made being different a beautiful thing!