At 13 years old, Marella Verde was at her doctor’s office for her annual check-up when her pediatrician found a significant curve in her spine. Following x-rays she was diagnosed with scoliosis. Marella was placed in a brace immediately and instructed to wear it after school and at night for about 18 months. Follow-up x-rays revealed her curve was getting worse, and Marella’s mom, Linda, sought a second opinion. She was referred by her pediatrician’s office to Dr. Krishn Sharma.
Marella wore a second brace for an additional year, but the degree of the spinal curve continued to worsen. After discussing options with Dr. Sharma, Marella and her family understood that in order to allow Marella to continue her active lifestyle – she plays field hockey and lacrosse for her high school – she would need surgery to correct the progressively worsening scoliosis.
“Even though I am the youngest of four, our family has never faced anything like this before, so it was hard for me to predict what the pain and recovery would be like,” recalled Marella. “But I was actually kind of excited for the surgery. It was interesting to show people what was going on in my body, and I knew that if I wanted to remain active and continue to play sports, surgery was my best option.”
In June 2014, Marella underwent a successful surgery that involved Dr. Sharma placing two rods and 16 screws into her spine to correct what was then a 57-degree curve.
“The morning of the surgery Marella was calm, but my husband and I were nervous wrecks,” said Linda. “Just the thought of her going under was very scary. Dr. Sharma reassured us that she would be fine and her condition was fixable.”
Although Marella wasn’t overly worried about the procedure, she did have one pre-surgery request, and the OR staff was happy to oblige.“I got the idea of a pre-surgery selfie from Twitter,” said Marella. “I didn’t think I would be allowed to do it, but when I asked Cecil, one of the staff members, he said yes and it made me so happy! The first thing I asked my sister when I woke up was if she had posted the photo on Instagram for me.”
At the time of this writing, Marella is about six months into recovery and continues to work hard every day to improve her physical condition.“She’s a trooper,” said Linda. “She’s been a trooper through the entire process, following directions and never complaining. We are all so incredibly proud of her.”
Today Marella has her eye on lacrosse tryouts in March 2015, and is slowly working her way back to playing sports full-time. She walks three miles a day on a treadmill and can perform limited exercises, lifting no more than four pounds. She also uses a bone healing system to help strengthen her back.
“This was definitely a hard thing to go through, and it was difficult seeing my teammates running around at practice when I so badly wanted to be them,” said Marella. “But everyone at the Hospital was so positive, comforting and reassuring. There’s no better feeing than looking back after the surgery and seeing how much you’ve improved and feeling great afterwards.”