Olivia Lawson Won’t Allow Anything to Hold Her Back

Not Even Having Screws Down Her Back

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Olivia Lawson Won’t Allow Anything to Hold Her Back

Marcela Marcial, Beat Investigator - Featured Athlete

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Life is full of surprises. Olivia Lawson, Sahuaro junior, one day felt a sudden weird sharp pain in her lower back in 7th grade while playing soccer. She went to the doctors to get x-rays and what they found was a minor stress factor in her L5 where the joints connect. Her doctor recommended for her to wear “a brace for three months to see if that would heal by itself and if that did help…which it didn’t,” Olivia recalls.  She then got steroid shots twice that were put in where the cracks were before proceeding with the surgery. By the time her sophomore year came around, there was no alternative to cure the pain she was experiencing except to have surgery. This process took about 4 years.

Olivia describes her pain when she first noticed it as, “It kinda felt like if someone literally had a knife in your spine and then when the pain started it felt like either that person was wiggling it around or just moving it in general.” It got to the point where if she got in odd positions, pain would come and go, shoot pain in her legs and sometimes she couldn’t even get up. Everyday activities like getting out of bed were sometimes difficult too.

When Olivia get her second round of the steroid shot it was supposed to last a year but for her, it only lasted a few months.  She was trying to play soccer for Sahuaro because she thought she was clear but it didn’t end up going well. Resilient and tough, Olivia would not allow her back pain to stop her from being involved.  She realized she couldn’t play soccer, so she tried out for the cheer team and that’s when everything went downhill. Still not willing to give up being active, the athletic teen wanted to give sports one last try so went our for swimming. Diving into the pool is when she felt the pain in her back at its worst point. After that practice, her dad had to carry her out in and out of the car for how much her back hurt. “I was in tears, the pain was unbearable.”

Olivia had physical therapy before her surgery for about a week in the hospital to strengthen her core a bit. January 19th, 2018, she had her surgery. After her surgery she stayed in bed for three days then her drain was taken out. When you get your drain taken out, doctors wants you to be up and moving around and only then would they release her from the hospital, but for Olivia this wasn’t exactly her case. When they removed her drain, every time she stood up she got headaches, migraines, and got dizzy. On the 26th, she was finally able to leave the hospital and it was her first time she had walked in a week.

At the moment she is not allowed to do most physical actives, like run, extreme exercises, or anything that has to do with putting pressure on the spine. If she wants to do physical exercise she can walk, swim, do yoga, and stationary bike. It’s hard for her because she still envisions herself as a soccer player. An interesting fun fact about Olivia’s surgery is that doctors used a different technique that has never been done before, “I didn’t know this before my surgery…but afterwards, there was a technique that was used to put in the screws. So I have two horizontal rods and then four screws in my L5  and my L4 so it’ll fuse them together…the technique that he used at the top for the screws had always been set in stone but, for the bottom, I was the first person in North America to have that technique done to me on my bottom screws.”

School was really rough on her. She was missing days because of the pain and recovery of the surgery. When she came back everyone was on a different unit while she was still trying to catch up. “Junior year is really where I kick it in gear.” During her free time she likes to draws and paint. In the hospital, when she was feeling well she drew with crayons the hospital provided. Lately she has been more into tattoo-inspired drawings. The week of her surgery her family was having issues. It was a rough and emotional time for everyone in her family, so painting has helped her to take a mental break from everything that was going on at once. Also the people who were there for her and telling her that everything is going to be okay made a big difference in her attitude.

“There was really nothing to do. I watched Disney movies all day so that was pretty great.” Then I asked Olivia about the hospital food, “Oh gosh no, my mom loves me enough that she got me food…I’m lactose intolerant so it was my mistake to tell them that ’cause I can eat ice cream – it just hurts my stomach.” That’s Olivia – even if it causes pain, she does what she wants.

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