Imagine being ten years old again and recall your activities and hobbies at that age. Attending school excites you, reading is one of your favourite pastime, you look forward to recess or lunch break so that you can play your favourite sport, in this case football (soccer). Recall the feeling of being told by your mother that you are allowed to visit a friend or better yet, an older sibling who lives nearby. Recall the rush of emotion coursing through your body on the walk over because there is so much fun awaiting you upon your arrival. Imagine you reaching your sister’s house, as you normally do, and you pull her 1200 pound steel sliding gate with ease because it is on wheels. Imagine realizing something is wrong with the gate today but by the time you realize this, the steel gate is on top of you crushing your back. The impact is so sudden and cruel that you scream on the top of your voice not yelling for help but just screaming. Luckily, neighbours and passersby heard your screams and five strong adults were able to release you from the burden of the gate on your back. You feel relieved that you have been helped, but what now? This is ten-year old Stephanie Quinones story, a journey of a thousand miles... 

After she was retrieved from the clasp of the gate, she was taken to a hospital that was near the place of the accident in Orange Walk Town. Some tests were done but at that time the doctors did not see any severe damage to the spine and Stephanie was sent home to recover. Olga, Stephanie’s mother sighed in relief; however, this was short lived. A few days later, Stephanie started experiencing agonizing back pain and her ability to walk became difficult. Stephanie was taken back to the hospital were a more comprehensive tests was done that included images of her lower spine and the doctors were able to see a cause for concern; the gate almost broker her back in half and by extent came close to severing her spine but didn’t. The result showed that two vertebrae in her back had shifted position; Stephanie was diagnosed with Spondylisthesis, a condition where the spinal cord becomes pinched between the two vertebrae that have shifted. Life after being diagnosed with this condition entails numbness in the legs, decrease in mobility and severe back pain. Knowing that an injury of this kind had a 90 percent result of an adult being permanently paralyzed, Olga was distraught at the thought of her baby girl, a once rambunctious child may never walk again. Stephanie’s older brother found it almost unimaginable that his little sister that was always running around might be confined to a wheel chair for the rest of her life. 

December passed and the family celebrated the Holidays with Stephanie being unable to walk and passing each day in extreme pain. Despite the grim present December brought the family closer to hope and new beginnings. Yes, 2015 was a year of possible change for Stephanie and her family and her age had a lot to do with. Because of her age, Stephanie’s bones are very flexible and with the right help, her injury could be corrected and secondly because she had heard that Spine Overseas (SOS) would be visiting Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH) in early January and her case was referred to the visiting team for revision.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, not physical for Stephanie, but mental. At ten years old, she braved her family by accepting the reality that the team might be unable to perform corrective surgery on her moreover, she accepted the thought that if she had surgery, she would be in agonizing pain as she recovered. Stephanie knew it was God first, then, mind over body. On Sunday January 11th, 2015, Stephanie waited to be evaluated Dr. Javier Dupuy, Neurosurgeon at KHMH and a specialist from SOS. What they saw was a level four injury on a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being very traumatic to the spine, a complete shifting of the spinal column out of place. For surgery they specified that her injury occurred at Lumbar 5 sacrum 1 and concluded that they have the materials present to correct the spine and will in two days time!

On January 13th, 2015 at 8:00am, Stephanie was prepared for surgery at KHMH. Approximately 6 hours after, she emerged from the Operating Room and was placed in the Recovery Room. A mix of happiness and empathy gushed through Olga and other family members; happiness because Stephanie can resume to her once active lifestyle over the upcoming months and empathy because the road to recovery will be painful. Ten days after her surgery, Stephanie was discharged from KHMH and sent home to recover with strict instruction for proper recovery, doctor visits and medication. 

“Anyone who needs any type of surgery, be brave and pray about it.” encouraged Stephanie. 

The well spoken ten year old went on to say that people needing surgery must overcome their anxiety keep trying and trying because one day their situation will get better. She told us that she knows that one day she will walk again on her own.

According to family members, Stephanie has made a 60% improvement in her mobility. She is able to walk with the use of crutches, without the help of family members. With every step she takes she grows stronger and becomes steadier on her feet. Physical Therapy will be a part of her daily routine for the upcoming months with the hopes of her regaining full independence from the crutches. She is scheduled appointments with Dr. Dupuy at KHMH to tract her recovery and is scheduled to consult with the SOS team on their second visit in August of 2015.

She looks forward to returning to school later in the year and is keeping her mind sharp by reading age appropriate books and watching the discovery channel. Visits from friends and school mates motivate Stephanie; however, she is even more motivated by the memory of playing football on the field at the park a few blocks from her home. She has promised herself that she will be playing football again very soon.


Re-posted with permission from KHMH. Original article appeared here: