Dr. Burt Yaszay said Jennifer made a lasting impression on him: "Jennifer was one of the most mature young persons I have ever treated, actively taking control of her disease."

One day while shopping, 13-year-old Jennifer caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror and realized she needed help. Her misshapen back had made her self-conscious and made everyday life difficult, but this is the first time she saw herself as others might see her. Mature beyond her years, Jennifer began the journey toward a surgery that would change her life.

Jennifer’s curved spine made her appear much shorter than she should be and caused her ribs to stick out unnaturally. She had difficulty walking properly and was unable to stand up straight. Her condition caused her to be in pain continuously, especially when walking. Though these conditions had become Jennifer’s reality, she knew deep down she had the power to change her life. Her parents are from a different culture and had not considered modern or “Western” medicine an option.

Her mother was won over by her sweet pleas and unwavering persistence, and agreed to take her to Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego for a consultation. Dr. Burt Yaszay diagnosed her with severe scoliosis and recommended surgery to correct her curved spine. Jennifer knew the next hurdle would be to convince her father that this was the best option.

Jennifer and the Rady Children’s staff were determined to help her parents understand their options. Dr. Yaszay, a social worker and the child life specialists worked together with Jennifer to bring her father in for a consultation. Once he met with Dr. Yaszay, he could not argue with the possibility of a better life for his daughter and felt more confident that she was in good hands.

Since her curvature was so severe, Jennifer had a halo traction, a gentle pulling of the joints and muscles to help straighten the spine, over a period of time. Jennifer recalls that it was raining as they were driving to the Hospital for the procedure, and her mom felt it was a good sign, “that the world was crying for them.” Once a nurse was able to show Jennifer that the halo traction was working, she was sure she had made the right decision. The halo traction and spine surgery straightened Jennifer’s spine so well, she grew five inches taller!

Jennifer says she felt at home at Rady Children’s and became friends with the staff. “They were always there for me and were really funny,” Jennifer says. She is grateful for the care she received and the compassion and patience the staff showed her family as they struggled with the biggest decision of their lives. “My dad was really happy that things went well and that I am able to walk without pain. Now he looks up to Dr. Yaszay and thinks he is a good person, as well as trusts Rady Children’s Hospital,” Jennifer explains.

Dr. Yaszay said Jennifer made a lasting impression on him. “Jennifer was one of the most mature young persons I have ever treated, actively taking control of her disease. Ultimately she was the one that recognized the severity of her scoliosis and brought that understanding to her parents.”

Today, Jennifer can walk without pain. She feels more confident now that her body is straighter and she can hold her head much higher. “Living is easier,” Jennifer says “It was all worth it.”