For Reagan Nehring, running is everything.
"I love running so much," said the 14-year-old hurdler for L'Anse Creuse North. "Sometimes I'll complain about it because I get tired, but just running and feeling power in it, jumping over hurdles ... the finish at the finish line feels amazing."
But there was something much bigger standing in the way of her dreams: a surprise diagnosis two years ago. Doctors told Reagan she had scoliosis. It was shocking news, even if it explained Reagan's constant pain. As she crossed finish lines, pain would radiate to her knees.
The source of the pain ended up being a curve in her spine that was progressing quickly. Doctors in Michigan fitted her with a plastic and velcro brace she was wearing 23 hours a day. That was painful, too, and worse, it didn't seem to help.
Her orthopedic surgeon couldn't understand why the brace wasn't slowing the curve, buying time to get a spinal fusion that would take at least 6 months of recovery time and would ultimately limit her mobility. Running was not a part of this future.
Reagan's mom, Carrie Nehring, wasn't buying what the doctor was selling.
"There are so many advancements in medicine, it was hard for me to believe there was nothing else that could be done," she said.
Carrie turned to the Internet and got to work researching alternatives. She found the top pediatric spine surgeons in the country, and the family was off to New York and the Institute for Spine and Scoliosis where Dr. Darryl Antonacci pioneered a new surgery. Rather than use a metal rod, which fixes the spine one position, but limits mobility, a new technique called anterior scoliosis correction offers a less invasive procedure and greater mobility.
The technique enters through the side and puts bolts in the spine and tethers it with strings. They then tighten the strings to straighten out the spine. The downtown is 6 weeks -- not half a year.
Reagan's surgery was scheduled for Oct. 17, of last year. Six days in the hospital in New York, six weeks out of school ... and the surgery worked for Reagan. X-rays show clear progress, and this spring she was back jumping around a track.
"It's kinda crazy that i'm already back at track," Reagan said. "It's kind of amazing!"
Even more amazing: she's running pain free. Now she can concentrate on improving her times and making varsity next season.
"They saved her life," Carrie said. "They gave her quality of life back. She's actually back to who she was. Everything was taken away from her was given back."