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Amber Neukum

Los Angeles, CA

I'll never forget the day Dr. Widmann told me that I no longer needed to wear my back brace 21+ hours each day. I was going to finally have surgery! For once, my pain would be gone and I could wear normal clothes that actually fit me. I would get great sleep and not wake up throwing my back brace across the room. I could lead a normal life!

I always felt safe and taken care of when I went to Hospital for Special Surgery. Dr. Widmann's team answered every single question that I had (my nervous parents' questions too!!) without hesitation. They really became a family to us during the months that lead up to my surgery and during my recuperation.

Dr. Widmann reassured me that I wouldn't even remember my time in the hospital, and that really calmed my fears. I had danced competitively my whole life and was an extremely active young girl and didn't know what my life was going to look like on the other side of the operating room doors. I had faith, though. I was in the hands of one of the best doctors in the entire world.

He was right - I barely remember my time in the hospital. I have a few memories, but they're pretty fuzzy. I do remember loving the nurses that took care of me, but I think I'm better off not remembering too much.

The best part about my whole experience was the promise that Dr. Widmann and his team made to me: I would be able to get back to sports/activities within 6 months post-op. ONLY 6 MONTHS? And boy, did that fly! In just 6 months I was trying out for the JV Lacrosse team (I had never even touched a lacrosse stick before). No, I didn't score many goals (just one), but I still ran up and down that field like a champ! I feel like I can toot my own horn in this situation because I was in a hospital bed just 6 months earlier. The following year I auditioned for the dance team at school and made it! I was choreographing dances for the spring show and, quite frankly, forgot about my surgery entirely.

People always point out to me how great my posture is. To be honest, it's completely out of my control. I can't bend my back like most people, but I sit up straight and walk with pride wherever I go. I grew three inches after surgery and am now a whopping 5'11".

I rarely even think about my surgery. Perhaps it's because I can't even see my scar from where I'm standing. Or perhaps it is because the pain is completely gone. Long gone are the days of the back brace, the over-sized clothes and the discomfort.

The best part is finding someone in my everyday life that has the same scar as me. It brings you closer to them because, well, they just get you. I wouldn't wish this surgery on anybody. I mean, come on, it's an 8-hour invasive surgery. But if a friend of mine had to get surgery, I would know exactly where to send them.