When Kelly and Cindy Stevenson adopted their daughter, Annie, from South Korea, they were filled with all the feelings of pride, joy, and excitement that come with having a new six-month-old around the house. Just three months later, however, that joy and excitement was muted by worry, after doctors diagnosed Annie with cerebral palsy. "What entered into my mind was just being sad … that I wouldn't be able to see her ride a bike and doing other normal kid stuff," Cindy Stevenson told Iowa TV station KCRG-TV in a recent story about Annie. "I was just afraid that that wasn't going to be possible."
She needn't have worried, because, thanks in part to her care team at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, a now-17-year-old Annie is doing much more than just riding a bike.
By the time Annie was five years old, Cindy Stevenson says her cerebral palsy had caused so much "spasticity" in her legs that "her bones actually began to grow in a rotated fashion," causing her legs to turn inward and leaving Annie unable to walk by herself. That's when they decided to come to Mayo Clinic. "We ended up at Mayo because my husband and his family have always used Mayo Clinic with good results," Cindy Stevenson says. "So we had a really good feeling about coming here."
At Mayo, Annie and her parents met with orthopedic surgeon William Shaughnessy, M.D., and Sherilyn Driscoll, M.D., whose first order of business was to perform a series of tests and analysis on Annie in Mayo's Motion Analysis (Gait) Lab. Corrective surgery soon followed. "She had her femurs cut and rotated, and then muscles cut and lengthened" Cindy tells KCRG-TV. And while that may sound complicated and invasive, Cindy Stevenson says it was a big success. "That first surgery made the enormous difference of allowing her to be able to walk independently again," she says. "She then took it from there and has been good about doing her exercises and physical therapy."
Another thing she's been good about is not allowing her cerebral palsy to get in the way of leading a normal teenage life or defining who she is as a person. That's despite the "six or seven" additional surgeries Cindy Stevenson during the 12 years Annie has been coming to Mayo Clinic. "She jogs now, runs cross-country, and is a good student and is very active in school," Cindy Stevenson says. "She also has a part-time job." (That may be an understatement, since she's a 4.0 student, and a member of the student council, National Honor Society and Future Business Leaders of America.) And while a lot of that has to do with her own will and desire, Cindy Stevenson says it also has something to do with Annie's care team at Mayo. "Both of her doctors -- Drs. Shaughnessy and Driscoll -- are worth their weight in gold," she says. "Annie's success is really their success."
Annie's cross-country teammates note her dedication and see her as an inspiration. For Annie, it's about a sense of accomplishment and making those who cheer her on proud. "When you hear other people cheering for you, you just want to keep going and keep getting better as a way to say thank you," she says.
You can watch KRCG full story below, which includes scenes and footage from her work inside Mayo's GAIT Lab. Then, let us know how successful we've been with this story and others by sharing your comments.