When River’s parents, Clare and Nicholas, first met their 5-year-old daughter, they realized that her spine was curved more than they had anticipated. Although they were aware of River’s condition before making the trip to China to finalize her adoption, it was not until they were standing in front of her that they could see “she was clearly walking hunched over,” Nicholas said.
Once they arrived back in their hometown of Juneau, Alaska, Clare and Nicholas took River to see a doctor who took X-rays and identified an 82-degree curve in her back. Being that she was so young with such a severe curvature, he recommended surgery and advised the family to seek medical care at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Tampa. The family originally planned a vacation to Florida, but instead packed up and moved.
On January 28, 2014, River had surgery. Her parents were nervous, but the expert medical staff at the Tampa Shriners Hospital explained the procedure and put Clare and Nicholas at ease. Just two days later, River was parading down the hospital halls, waving at anyone who would wave back. About a week after her January 31 release, River was back to her old self. She needed very little pain medication, walked on her own and played with her brother and sister. “She bounced back pretty easily,” Nicholas said.
Today, 9-year-old River loves being outside and active, and having fun like many young kids do. She likes to in-line skate and ride her bike. However, swimming is her passion. According to her dad, River likes to swim “pretty much whenever we let her.” River is also very active in her American Heritage Girl troop, and recently achieved new heights at a weekend-long camp in which she took on their ropes course.
“She was one of only a handful of girls to make it to the top,” Clare said. “We couldn’t wait to tell everyone at the hospital because we knew how proud they would be of her.”
River loves Shriners Hospital. She loves her nurses who call her “Princess” and “Tough Cookie.” She loves Riley, the Golden Retriever therapy dog. She loves the music therapist and the people who brought her toys and a hand-knit blanket. She brags that she had surgery and even flaunted her back brace like a fashion statement.
River’s back will never be completely straight, but thanks to metal rods put in her back, her spine will not crowd her other organs. She will continue to visit Shriners Hospitals for Children — Tampa every four to six months for rod adjustments to accommodate her growth. We are happy to report, River now has superb posture and can continue to be active. Nicholas commented on the change he saw in River following her surgery: “It was almost a night and day difference. Most people don’t even know that there was anything wrong with her, and we are very happy that she can enjoy doing anything she wants to now.”