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Yet as a result of severe scoliosis, this poised young woman has two 14-inch rods and some 21 screws keeping her spine straight.
Hannah's health challenges began when she was 10 years old. Her pediatrician noticed some curvature of her spine, and the family was referred to Craig Eberson, MD, with Hasbro Children's Hospital. Hannah was soon a regular patient and, as she grew, it became clear that she would need a nighttime brace to help prevent further spinal movement. When that wasn't enough, a daytime brace was added.
Unfortunately, her curve kept progressing, and by the fall of 2007, Eberson told Hannah's parents that he would recommend spinal fusion surgery, a complex procedure in which steel rods are implanted alongside the spine to keep it straight. It's an invasive procedure, one that no parent would wish upon a child, but the McDonalds had absolute faith in their doctor.
"We have a brother and sister-in-law who are both orthopedic surgeons, but we never felt we needed to seek a second opinion," says Barbara. "He told us, 'I know my patient, I know she's a young girl, and I'm going to treat her as if she were my own daughter.' He met with my husband and I, he gave us all the information, he answered all our questions. There was never any hesitation about giving us his time and full attention. His office was always full, but we never felt rushed. We were there because we had a problem, but we always left feeling good."
Eberson's office provided the McDonalds with a list of other parents whose children had undergone the same procedure. "That was very helpful," says Barbara. "I called everyone, asking what to expect, how to prepare."
Before Hannah's surgery, the family also went to the hospital for a preoperative tour. "That was a phenomenal resource," Barbara says. "It gave us a visual, rather than showing up to face the unknown." During the lengthy operation, a nurse came out every hour or so to update them on her progress. After the surgery, Hannah was hospitalized for a week, and her parents felt absolutely welcome to stay by her side. "Hasbro did a fantastic job of realizing that when a child is in their care, the entire family becomes the patient," Barbara says.
Today, Hannah has resumed all normal activity and is doing remarkably well. She's headed off to Syracuse University next year, hoping to major in broadcast journalism, and competed in the Miss RI pageant this spring, winning awards for community service and her fundraising efforts on behalf of Hasbro Children's Hospital.
"She's as normal as any other 17-year-old," says her mother. "It's not something you would wish on anyone, but it happened, and we were taken very good care of, and we'd like others to know that."
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