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news News Wednesday, August 28, 2019 Wednesday, August 28, 2019 6:57 PM - Wednesday, August 28, 2019 6:57 PM

Claire keeps dancing after spine surgery

Claire keeps dancing after spine surgery

Claire, a patient at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Portland, loves to dance. She began taking dance classes when she was 5 years old, and it has been her passion ever since! “Dancing makes me feel free and powerful,” said Claire. “There’s something about the feeling I get when I land a triple pirouette perfectly – it’s difficult to explain!” However, Claire experienced a hurdle in her ability to dance – a curvature was discovered in her spine. “Dancing was always an escape for me, so you can imagine how difficult it was to not be able to dance during the most difficult experience of my life.”

When Claire was 8 years old, a 13-degree curve was discovered in her spine. Because she was so young, her primary care physician decided to just keep an eye on it – but the curve in her spine continued to progress. When Claire was 13, she was officially diagnosed with scoliosis. She was referred to a specialist to receive treatment, but she was very unhappy with the level of care that she received.

As an active dancer, Claire was participating in dance classes for over 10 hours per week, and one day she injured her back in class. “I thought it was just a pulled muscle and continued dancing despite the excruciating pain,” said Claire. “I went to lots of sports specialists who said they couldn’t do anything for me. As it turned out, my dance teacher’s sister had the same condition as me when she was 18. I met with her, and that’s when she told me about Shriners Hospital. It made me feel like I had hope.”

By the time Claire met with Michelle Welborn, M.D., the curve in her spine had increased to 48 degrees.

“I couldn’t breathe, my shoulders ached, and my hips felt like they were fire,” Claire said, remembering her experience. She had spinal fusion surgery on February 20 at the Portland Shriners Hospital. “I can finally breathe again,” said Claire. “And, other than just recovering from surgery, my back hasn’t had any pain. Dr. Welborn asked me if it was worth it and if I’d do it again and I said ‘absolutely.’”

“Claire is incredible,” said Dr. Welborn, referring to Claire’s ambition and passion in helping others. During her senior year of college, Claire served on the board of United Way of Mid-Willamette Valley and played a large role in launching a mobile shower facility for Salem’s homeless community. “She’s going to change the world.”

“I felt cared for and I felt like I mattered at Shriners,” said Claire. “Not only that, but I also felt safe, which was very important to me. My favorite memory from being at Shriners was waking up from surgery and taking a breath and realizing how suffocated I was before. I instantly started crying and it was a truly beautiful moment to fill my lungs with air for the first time.”

Now, Claire is focused on attending University of Oregon in the fall and is planning on studying marketing. Of course, she plans to keep dancing, thanks to the care she received at the Portland Shriners Hospital. “Dance was the first love of my life and I know dance will always be a part of my life, no matter what.”

Claire displaying scar