Lonely and hurt
Hayley clung to her side again. “What was the hundredth time today?” She thought. The pain was intense, but what hurt most was that no one would believe her.
More than one person had told her that the pain she was feeling was only in her head. But after the pain continued, a doctor finally asked her to come for treatment. Her father was not pleased to say the least.
Hayley has loved swimming since she started at a young age of 18 months. Now, at 16, she is more passionate than ever to make her dream come true.
One day, Hayley had her exercise routine and noticed that she wasn’t as graceful as she usually was. Just as she was about to reach for the side of the pool, she was clutching her side when she felt a sharp pain in her stomach.
Hayley’s team helped her out of the pool and into the safety of the solid ground. She could barely move how bad the pain was. It had pinned her down when she tried to take a deep breath.
The lifeguard in attendance didn’t know what to think and decided the best thing to do is to give her parents a call. While Hayley may have escaped from the icy depths of the water, this was just the beginning of her problems.
Haylay dismissed the pain as a muscle pull. But she soon realized the pain was only getting worse and had no intention of leaving anytime soon.
Hayley’s parents Beth and Brian dismissed their complaints, knowing that it wasn’t uncommon for swimmers to feel uncomfortable with their bodies from time to time. But in the middle of that night, Hayley awoke from pain with a sudden scream.
The pain Hayley felt paralyzed her. It wasn’t just the pain in her side anymore, she couldn’t even get up anymore.
Her parents awoke from their screams and rushed to their room. They turned on the light and Hayley cried: it’s hard to breathe. “Brian and Beth were worried about their daughter and lost their words.
They took their daughters’ complaints more seriously now, maybe this time she had really hurt herself. When they looked at the frightened expression Hayley was making, there was little she could do other than lie down in pain.
The next morning, Hayley needed help getting dressed and she was taken to the hospital. They would never forget what the doctors would tell them when they looked at Hayley.
Run some tests
Beth and Brian sat in the waiting room in silence while the doctor ran tests. Oddly enough, they didn’t ask much about Hayley and her symptoms. They already seemed to think they knew what was going on.
Hayley’s parents thought that was at least good news. If the doctors were confident, so were they. But no one expected the test results to make them scratch their heads.
The results showed that Hayley was perfectly fine. According to the doctors, the scan results also showed no bruising or damage of any kind that made her feel the pain.
They told her that she must have just worked a little too hard by the pool and that she should stop swimming for a little bit. Hayley couldn’t believe what she was hearing, she wouldn’t leave until they gave her a proper explanation.
“You must have missed something, the pain is unbearable!” Hayley yelled, trying to hold back her tears. The doctor looked at her card again and just repeated what he had already told her. She was fine, none of the tests came out.
At the very end they finally told her something that would leave her speechless. How could they suggest that!
For every test that didn’t come back, the doctors said it must be because of stress. That the pain she was feeling was made good.
Hayley got up from the chair and ran out of the doctor’s office. She was crying, nobody believed her. Would she just have to endure this pain forever and forget about her dreams of becoming an Olympic swimmer? She needed someone’s help.
‘I’m not crazy!’
Hayley’s father found his daughter sobbing in the hospital parking lot. Although she was a teenager with typical teenage problems, there was no reason to believe that the physical pain she suffered was psychosomatic. Did you think she was doing this to get attention?
Brian promised his daughter that he would get to the bottom of what was going on, but in reality he didn’t know where to turn.
At this point, Hayley was crying in pain even when buckling up a backpack or using a hairdryer. Brian was furious that a doctor would even suggest to his ailing little girl that this was all on her mind.
So he did what any father would do. He went to work looking for the best doctors in the country to help get Hayley back to health. And from the beginning he only faced obstacles.
Brian was recommended as a top doctor by a friend on the job and brought Hayley straight to him. But despite a more thorough analysis, he more or less repeated the results of the first doctor – nothing came up with the scans, so nothing is wrong with her.
The desperate father could no longer bear to watch his daughter in agony and vowed to do everything possible to bring her back into her normal life. Then Beth saw a promising clue.
Hold on to straws
Hayley’s mother, Beth, had desperately searched medical websites for explanations, but nothing useful came out.
It took most of the year before they completed Dr. Lisa McMahon discovered who had had a personal experience that would prove relevant to Hayley’s case. But could you get an appointment?
Hard to see
“As a parent, it was just very difficult to watch your child be in pain and not be able to do anything about it,” said Brian. “But when we took her to the Phoenix Children’s Hospital in Arizona, it looked hopeful.”
Dr. McMahon greeted Hayley warmly when she arrived at the hospital and said she could see that what she was going through was really difficult. Hayley smiled for the first time in months. Finally someone understood! But could she help her?
Dr. McMahon put her hand on Hayley’s shoulder and told her everything would be fine. The budding Olympian swallowed hard when she saw Dr. McMahon watched him go through the same tests as the previous doctors.
But when they sat down to look at the results, Dr. McMahon was more confident than the others when she explained her diagnosis. She was sure she had found what every previous doctor had missed.
Dr. McMahon explained that Hayley suffered from a rare condition known as a “slipping rib,” which means that the cartilage that surrounds her lower chest did not stay fixed where it should be, causing her pain.
The doctor was able to quickly diagnose Hayley’s condition and recommend the correct treatment. But the reason she was able to spot it so quickly is quite a coincidence.
Dr. McMahon had suffered from the disease herself when she was Hayley’s age. The symptoms Hayley described led her to investigate something any other doctor would have missed.
The rare condition is caused by the cartilage slipping off the lower ribs, causing pain in the patient’s chest or upper abdomen. It usually occurs in middle-aged people.
But diagnosis was one thing; successful treatment would be another – and Hayley’s father feared it.
As she prepared for her first session of physical therapy, he knew she was going to have a long and painful journey ahead of her. Would it hurt any more? Would it someday take away the pain? Would she ever be able to swim again?
On the mend
Fortunately for the teenage girl, the treatment went a long way towards correcting the problem and she can now live without any movement that would make her wince in pain. She even got a designer swimsuit from her idol Missy Franklin, who was touched by her story of recovery.
“I definitely feel better,” said Hayley. “It’s nice to be able to live again without having to worry about bursting your ribs.” Can you imagine living in pain for a whole year without knowing what the cause was?