Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Brooksville teen hopeful after surgeries for severe scoliosis

BROOKSVILLE

When Amanda Myers wanted to thank the man she credits with saving her life, an off-the-shelf card wouldn't do. So, she wrote a poem instead. "You have taken my pain away; you have given me back my childhood," Amanda, 17, told Dr. David Siambanes. "Because of your gift as a surgeon, I have a new life." Born with cerebral palsy, Amanda's life hasn't been easy. When she was very young, her mother was told that some children with cerebral palsy learn to walk and some don't. Doctors also warned that she would have stiff or tight muscles and exaggerated reflexes, all of which might become more problematic as Amanda entered adolescence.

When Kathy Myers looked into the intense blue eyes of her only child, she saw a bright, keen-to-learn child with a big heart and a delightful sense of humor.

"When they are young, you don't realize what's coming," said Myers. "You think, 'She'll be different.' No one can really tell you what it will be like."

The family didn't worry about the future. Instead, they lived in the present, accepting what came each day.

Amanda says her father, Kenny Myers, has a memory of her walking around a grocery store.

"I don't believe him," Amada said. "I don't remember. But I did walk at one point in time."

• • •

As Amanda grew older, she could get around in a manual wheelchair, but tired easily. Physically attending school was difficult and academics became frustrating.

"Teachers had a hard time seeing past the wheelchair," said Myers.

Halfway through the third grade, Amanda began receiving home tutoring services.

When it was time for high school, the Brooksville teen decided to try attending school again, eventually phasing in a full day at Nature Coast Technical High School, just down the street from her home.

She made friends and bonded with teachers. She found her own voice, clear and strong.

"I've learned to advocate for myself instead of staying quiet," said Amanda. "There's a vast difference between being a young third-grader and being a high schooler."

During a growth spurt at the age of 15, Amanda developed scoliosis; her spine began to curve, quickly shifting nearly 70 degrees. She began to experience intense hip pain and was unable to sit up straight.

Scoliosis and hip dislocation, both common to cerebral palsy, made her muscle spasms increasingly painful. Eventually, traveling in her wheelchair became difficult; each bump or jolt hurt.

"I would go so slowly over sidewalk cracks, the lip of a doorway, the elevator … the smallest thing would cause me to wince," Amanda said.

Using any part of her body tightened up her muscles and caused pain. Even holding Noah, one of the family's friendly dachshunds or trying to find a comfortable position for sleeping became impossible.

For her confirmation at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church, Amanda chose St. Seraphina, known for her strength during a short life of pain.

"She had a palsy; she died at 15," said Amada. "I wondered how long my life was going to last. The pain at times felt like it was going to whittle me down to nothing."

• • •

Doctors she saw weren't helpful. One called her hysterical and suggested a psychiatrist. Others suggested increasing pain medication.

The scoliosis was progressing quickly and Amanda was losing the ability to sit in a chair. Her posture and hip pain would soon render her unable to be transported.

Amanda's physical therapist had read a story in the St. Petersburg Times about a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, Dr. David Siambanes, who specialized in tough scoliosis cases at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa.

Amanda's mother made an appointment.

Siambanes, one of a few surgeons in the country trained in both reconstructive spine surgery and pediatric orthopedics, wasted no time connecting with Amanda. He noted her intelligence and wry sense of humor.

With cerebral palsy, scoliosis can progress quickly.

When the spine begins to curve to such a drastic degree, it can interfere with the ability of organs such as the heart and lungs to function properly.

"It's much more life threatening," Siambanes said. "You have to treat this aggressively when it progresses so quickly."

• • •

Between July and October 2010, Siambanes performed two surgeries, one to straighten Amanda's spine with steel rods and the other to address her hip dislocation and pain.

After the final procedure, Amanda noticed a change immediately. The pain was gone. She began to do things she hadn't done in a long time, like cuddle a pet or enjoy the sensation of laughter.

Today, Amanda sits up straight in her chair. She will never walk, but now she can see a future for herself.

Her teachers have inspired her. Maybe she'll become a teacher. She loves writing. Maybe she'll become an author.

"I feel I can face anything," Amanda said.

For her mother, after watching her daughter suffer for two years, the surgeries brought profound relief.

"It's like I can move again, too," she said.

After graduation in May, Amanda will attend Pasco-Hernando Community College. After that, she plans to attend St. Leo University.

"I will be indebted to Dr. Siambanes forever," she said. "I wish I could show him the magnitude of good that he's done."

Shary Lyssy Marshall can be reached at slmarshall.sptimes@gmail.com.

Amanda's poem

Getting back to me

I've been lost for so many years

Blinded by darkness and my fears

Someone removed the blindfold, now I can see

Getting back to me

I shudder at every step, afraid of the dark

Nothing but the sound of a meadow lark

Nothing can hurt you, I realize with glee

Getting back to me

I stop and notice the sunny day

I start to run and realize I can play

I trip and stumble with ecstasy

Getting back to me

Turning back the clock by years

I laugh and cry with joyful tears

Step by step I set myself free

Getting back to me

This is too good to be true

I look up at the sky and whisper, "Thank You"

I never thought this could ever be

Getting back to me.

Amanda Myers

Brooksville teen hopeful after surgeries for severe scoliosis 03/23/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 8:19pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tarpon Springs fire chief to retire in September after 39 years

    Local Government

    TARPON SPRINGS — When Richard Butcher got involved with Tarpon Springs Fire Rescue in 1978, he had just moved down from Ohio.

    Tarpon Springs fire Chief Richard Butcher is retiring after 39 years of service.
  2. Seeking change, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn goes outside for new fire marshal

    Fire

    TAMPA — Sarasota County Fire Marshal John Reed has been hired as Tampa's new fire marshal, and Mayor Bob Buckhorn said he wants Reed to shake up Tampa Fire Rescue's building inspection bureau.

    Sarasota County Fire Marshal John Reed, 53, will make $118,310 a year as the new fire marshal for the city of Tampa. [City of Tampa]
  3. Ruth: Trump is no Boy Scout in speech to scouts

    Columns

    It could have been worse. At least the Boy Scouts of America didn't invite Dennis Rodman to address its 19th jamboree to discuss American foreign policy with North Korea and the art of nose piercings.

    President Donald Trump addressed the Boy Scouts’ national jamboree in Glen Jean, W. Va.
  4. PSTA, wary of future cuts, keeps property tax rate steady

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority stands to lose $2 million a year if voters approve an expansion to Florida's homestead property exemption on the 2018 ballot.

    One of The PInellas Suncoast Transit Authority's hybrid busses. The PSTA's governing board voted Wednesday to maintain the current property tax rate. [JAMES BORCHUCK  |   Times]
  5. Rays power way to 5-1 win over Orioles on eve of crucial road trip

    The Heater

    St. PETERSBURG — The Rays didn't get many hits in the early going Wednesday, but they got a couple that went a long way and that was enough to beat the Orioles, 5-1.

    Rays right fielder Steven Souza Jr. (20) hugs catcher Jesus Sucre (45) after Souza's solo home run in the seventh inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]