“I just want to be able to help little kids that don’t feel good because that’s what they did for me when I didn’t feel good is people helped me out,” Denver Online High School student, Emily Kesselring, said. Kesselring knows all too well the power of one.
“So I had acute scoliosis. It was way, way bad. I was curved, like I was tilted that way a lot,” she explained.
When measuring scoliosis, ten to twenty degrees of a spinal curve is minor, twenty to thirty degrees is moderate, and thirty to forty degrees is severe. Kesselring’s was off the charts, saying, “My curve when I was diagnosed was at fifty degrees, and then when I was operated on was at seventy-six degrees.”
A twenty-six-degree difference grown over only two years, causing increasing constant pain.
She said, “If I was not operated on, I would have been in a wheelchair forever by the time, by next March, my 16th Birthday. I would have been in a wheelchair the rest of my life. I would have been crippled.”
One surgery at Children’s Hospital Colorado changed everything, saying, “That surgery I had that fall was life-saving.”
“These are just aluminum rods, and those are aluminum screws, and then there’s bone cement holding all my spine,” she said, describing her postoperative x-ray.
“It’s just hard to get used to because I can’t bend my back at all, like I’ll never be able to bend it. And just waking up from surgery in so much pain and not being able to move,” Kesselring said.
While not easy to get through, she said, “It’s such a weird thing to think about, because when I think about in my head, I was so physically miserable but in my head, I was so happy to get that surgery because I needed it so bad.”
During recovery, one blanket made all the difference.
“When I was in the hospital I received a blanket, it was like a quilt kind of, with whales all over it, and I still have that blanket and I love it,” she noted.
“It was a girl scout troop that gave it to me, and it just made me feel really happy,” she said. “It was just nice I think, and that made me feel so good that I wanted to make people feel good.”
And so she started making blankets for other patients. “Someday, I want to work at the Children’s Hospital. I want to be an orthopedic nurse and a CAN,” she described about her future career plans.
While Emily is back in full swing now, her 8th grade year took its toll, missing almost half of the school year due to time with her surgery and recovery.
“When I was in 8th grade, I missed so much school because of my surgery and it was just hard to recover and recover fully,” she said, inspiring her to transition to Denver Online High School for a more flexible education.
“I just wanted to make sure I was all there if anything like that ever happens again. And then that way I can still recover completely and at my own pace and get all my homework done,” Kesselring described.
She also has been able to give back through Denver Online’s Children’s Hospital Colorado Service Program where her and a team of students organized and led out an art party in the hospital’s main lobby, helping patients create dream boards and tissue paper flowers.
“I just really like seeing that they were happy,” she said, because one smile can make it all worth it.
For Denver Online, it’s integral that we instill the value of service within our students in order that they know their significance, the understanding that one person can make a difference.
“It means that I mean something, and that I can really help people. Because that’s all I want to do. I just want to mean something.”