Editor’s Note: One week before her 12th birthday, Kaitlyn was diagnosed with severe scoliosis. Now a 21-year-old college student, Kaitlyn shares her story and tells how the care provided by Shriners Hospitals for Children transformed her life.
By Kaitlyn Hawkins
I was always the girl who loved to try new things. I spent my weekends roller skating, playing soccer, climbing trees, and so much more. I even tried out for cheerleading!
Then, very quickly, my life changed. In January 2010, one week before my 12th birthday, I was diagnosed with scoliosis. When I decided to tell a group of my classmates at school, I felt so much better until I noticed their blank faces. One snickered and called me a hunchback. The whole group joined in, and I was mortified. Later in the evening, I went home and looked in the mirror. I realized why they called me what they did. My shoulders, hips and stomach were crooked. My right shoulder blade was three times larger than my left. I felt like a monster.
Not long after the diagnosis, my family discovered Shriners Hospitals for Children. Suddenly, the future I wanted no longer felt out of reach. We traveled all the way from Las Vegas to Sacramento for my first appointment with Dr. (Rolando) Roberto, a spine surgeon. My health was getting to the point I could no longer walk, breathe or eat without pain. Meeting Dr. Roberto changed my life forever. He made me feel hopeful for the future.
He explained that I would have two surgeries approximately one week apart and would stay in the hospital nearly a month to allow time for rehabilitation.
On November 16, 2010, I woke up from my first surgery and immediately felt that my hips were straight for the first time in nearly a year. From that moment I felt strength. Dr. Roberto performed my second surgery on November 23, 2010. With the help of therapists, I learned to walk again and even brush my teeth! The two surgeries had corrected the curvature in my spine, which went from 107 degrees to 35 degrees.
In high school I got back into sports and played soccer and basketball. I even had the time of my life learning to paddle board during a trip to Morro Bay, Calif.
Today, at 21 years old, I am a college student and run an international organization, Every Little Girl Needs Braids. I have become the best version of myself. I cannot imagine what my life would be like today if I had not come to Shriners Hospitals for Children – Northern California. I would not wish it any other way.