Micayla Murphy is a dancer. Not just in the sense that the Marshall middle-schooler loves being part of the Just For Kix program - her mom says it's hard to get her to stop dancing, period.
"I'm also a sprinter, too," Micayla Murphy said.
That's why the past six months have been tough, as Micayla has recovered from surgery that helped correct curves in her spine.
Photo by Deb Gau
While she talked, Marshall fifth-grader Micayla Murphy hugged a monkey toy given to her during recovery for back surgery in December. Scoliosis had made it hard for Murphy to participate in dance, one of her favorite things to do.
Back in December, she spent almost a week at the Shriners Hospital for Children in the Twin Cities. Both Micayla and her mother Carrie Colvin- Murphy said this week that they're counting down the days until Micayla can officially go back to being her active self.
"As of next month, she'll get all of her activity back," Colvin-Murphy said.
It's been a long journey, going all the way back to last spring. Colvin- Murphy said she and other family members noticed something didn't seem right with Micayla's posture.
"Mom would say, 'Micayla, stand up straight,' and I'd be like, 'I am standing up straight,'" Micayla Murphy said. Wearing a plaid shirt one day showed that something definitely wasn't right, Micayla said. The lines in the fabric pattern were curved over parts of her back where she seemed to be growing lumps.
Colvin-Murphy took her daughter to the doctor.
Micayla was diagnosed with scoliosis, which was causing her spine to curve in an "S" shape.
One of the curves was sharp enough that it was also putting pressure on her lung and making it harder to breathe.
"She would start dancing, and her endurance was not what it should be," Colvin-Murphy said.
The only option to help Micayla was back surgery, Colvin-Murphy said, and there were two children's hospitals in Minnesota where the surgery could be done.
One was the Shriners Hospital. Colvin-Murphy said she applied for a referral there, partly because it worked with a surgeon from the Mayo Clinic, and partly because she had family and friends who are members of the Shriners organization.
Shriners Hospital for Children-Twin Cities, located in Minneapolis, is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. The hospital specializes in offering orthopedic care for children around the country.
"If it hadn't been for the Shriners Hospital, I don't know what we would've done," Colvin-Murphy said. The surgery costs were steep, even with help from insurance.
"There was a huge application form," Colvin- Murphy said. She said patients could get referrals from either a physician or from a local Shriners group. "Thank goodness, we had both."
Micayla was scheduled for surgery on Dec. 4.
"We went up there on Dec. 3," Micayla said. Part of the preparations weren't just for the surgery but to make her hospital stay afterward more comfortable. "They gave me an iPad, and they had a lot of movies you could pick out to watch."
"They worked really hard to make sure that the things that scared her the most wouldn't be there," Colvin-Murphy said of the hospital staff. But, Micayla Murphy said, it was still hard not to be nervous.
"I was pretty scared," Micayla said. "When they first came up with the (surgical) bed, I was just bawling."
Micayla went into surgery at 8 a.m. and didn't come out until around 5:30 p.m., Colvin-Murphy said. She had two titanium rods screwed to her spine, to help keep it straight. During the next few days, Micayla worked with therapists to help her get moving and breathing deeply again.
It was hard at first, Micayla said. She couldn't manage more than walking from her room to the hall and back.
"Right after I got up, I was like, 'I don't want to do this,'" she said.
After Micayla was released from the hospital, there were still months to go in the recovery process. For a long time, she said, she wasn't allowed to do more physical activity than walking around the track at the Marshall YMCA. It was important that her spine had plenty of time to grow strong around the rods and screws, Colvin-Murphy said.
It wasn't easy being stuck at home, Micayla said, but she had a lot of support from friends, family, and teachers. She was able to come back to school after the winter holidays.
"I got this really huge card that had all the fifth-graders and teachers' names on it," she said. She also found a whole bunch of get-well cards that had been slipped into her locker.
School desks, on the other hand, were harder to deal with.
"Those chairs weren't comfortable at all," Micayla said. "I had to get up a lot."
Colvin-Murphy said Micayla is now down to just 15 days before the last doctors' restrictions come off for physical activity.
"It's so far away," Micayla interjected. She said it will be exciting to go back to dancing.
Micayla already has a song picked out for a solo routine, Colvin-Murphy said.
It's called "Titanium."