Meet Anna

Self-Confidence Helps Keiki Excel

Many keiki with orthopedic conditions can be self-conscious about their physical abilities and appearance, often struggling to “fit in.” Yet, when they are surrounded by supportive people who encourage them to love and just be themselves, they shine as Shriners Children’s patient Anna does. When Anna was at a third grade health check-up, her mom Thanh noticed that she sat hunched forward. One night during dinner, when Anna was asked to sit up straight, she couldn’t due to her pain. Anna’s parents soon arranged a visit with an orthopedic surgeon who diagnosed her with kyphosis, a forward curvature of the spine that creates a hunched back. Although the surgeon was confident he could treat Anna, he instead recommended she seek the specialized care at Shriners Children’s Hawai'i.

“I knew Anna was in good hands at Shriners,” said Anna’s dad Stephan, whose grandfather was a Shriner. “They have a great reputation and the latest tools and equipment to treat complex cases, like the low-radiation EOS X-ray machine.” Over the next five years, Anna’s care was supervised by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jonathan Pellett, who prescribed a strict regimen of physical therapy and bracing to increase her strength and improve her posture. “It’s tough, but Dr. Pellett is fun and he knows what he’s doing,” said Anna. “I like that he talks directly to me about what’s happening and that he checks on other things besides my spine to make sure there aren’t any other problems.” Added Stephan, “I was impressed that Michele (director of rehabilitation therapy) is certified by The Barcelona Scoliosis Physical Therapy School in the Schroth Method which may help prevent Anna from needing surgery in the future.”

Yet as challenging as her treatment was, Anna faced a new one as she grew into her adolescence – social acceptance. “I had to wear the brace constantly and couldn’t bend over,” recalled Anna. “It made it hard for me to swallow sometimes and I had to sleep on my stomach.” Imagining what her classmates would say about her and her brace, she found solace in her Shriners ohana who helped turn her nervousness into confidence. “Everyone is so nice at Shriners, it feels like I’m at a friend’s house,” smiled Anna. “I met and spoke with other kids who wore a brace and Uncle Richard (orthotics manager) reminded me that my health was important and to love myself.” With her newfound confidence, Anna “embraced her brace” and began showing and telling others about it. She was pleasantly surprised when her classmates supported her, saying that it looked like the latest fashion trend.

Now 13, Anna reflects on how living with kyphosis has made her more disciplined. As she continues to show clinical improvement, she doesn’t take it for granted. She wakes up early to do her exercises before school, where she is not just an exceptional student, but an athlete on both the swim and cross-country teams and captain of her club soccer team. Demonstrating a confidence and maturity beyond her years, Anna has already planned her future. “I want to go to the University of Oregon and be a nurse practitioner so I can work with and help other kids,” she said. “I want to mentor others just as others have mentored me.”

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