My Unexpected Heroes This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

November 6, 2013
By , Ann Arbor, MI
Sometimes the people who affect your life the most appear in unexpected places. For one long, hard year I experienced stabbing pain in my back. After my mother saw me burst into tears when my brother laid his hand on my back, she took me to the doctor. My pediatrician discovered a lump on my spine. Immediately, I was sent to Children's Hospital.

When the CAT scan results came back, I was scheduled to see a radiologist. I couldn't understand why my mother and I were sent to a reception area that said Cancer Sector. That's when I met Dr. B. She explained that there was a mass the size of a golf ball on my spine. I felt my hands begin to shake as she explained.

“The mass could be an aneurysmal bone cyst. That would mean that you'd need metal rods fused to your spine, as well as bone grafts. You would not be able to play sports for the rest of your life. You would also not be able to move your neck as well as you can now.”

I felt like I was holding on by a thread. What she said next snapped it.

“Caroline …”

No, please don't say it.

“… it's not likely, but you could have cancer.”

I couldn't believe, or even comprehend, the two grave possibilities before me. Either way, my future would forever be marred by this infernal lump.

I was lucky to have the bone cyst, not cancer. My cyst had to be embolized – its blood flow cut off – the day before the surgery that would change my life. That was when I met Abe and Jesse, my anesthesiologists, who became my unexpected saviors. Abe is a funny, slightly nutty man who made me laugh when I didn't think I could smile. Jesse is a modest, sweet woman whose knowledge I'm eternally grateful for.

During the embolization, Jesse hung back, furtively listening in on a discussion the doctors were having. She overheard a doctor bring up a new method of curing aneurysmal bone cysts. It didn't require rods, screws, or fusions. It involved cryogenic probes, which would presumably kill the cyst by freezing it. But the procedure had never been done on a child before.

Jesse held onto this knowledge until she met with my mother. My mom was filled with hope and curiosity at the idea. She brought it up to Dr. G, a well-respected doctor who had been involved in my embolization. He was hesitant to bring it up to Dr. F, who was the head of the whole operation. He said to my mother, “I don't want to step on any toes or ruffle any feathers.”

“If she was your daughter,” my mom countered, “wouldn't you want to do whatever you could to avoid surgery?”

I remember coming out of the bathroom, my mom pushing me back to my bed in a wheelchair, and Abe standing there arguing Jesse's idea to the other doctors. I was baffled that the meeting was taking place around my gurney. Doctors were facing off and challenging each other's opinions. Abe stayed by my mom's side the entire night as she tried to deflect the impending surgery.

Eleven hours before my life was scheduled to be changed, the surgery was canceled.

I emerged from the cryogenic probe freezing, with a bit of frostbite and a small wound in my neck. The doctors predicted a full recovery in just a month.

Abe and Jesse saved me. Even when I was hours away from rods and screws, Abe and Jesse never stopped fighting for my best interests.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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