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Noelle Erslovas

Meskin practices on the varsity cheer team

Michelle Meskin overcomes the challenges of surgery

January 20, 2022

Surgery is a worrying matter that young athletes, students, or anyone hope never to have to experience. It takes a strong person to not only get through the procedure but also endure the long recovery process. One such person was Michelle Meskin.

After being diagnosed with scoliosis at the age of 14 and reaching a curve of about 40 degrees, Meskin was on the verge of severe scoliosis. At this point of the condition, it affected her in all aspects.

Physically, I was always in pain and had to constantly move around because that was what felt best to me. Mentally I thought I wasn’t going to get better, and the constant pain and annoyance always put me in a bad mood,” Meskin said.

Meskin was told she needed surgery and was on the operating table just two months later. At first, she was against having surgery because of the rushed situation and the feeling of being forced into it. 

“I was scared things could go wrong or that I would regret doing it. I am glad I went through with it. Although I do still have pain sometimes, I know that my scoliosis is prevented from coming back. Looking back on it, I realized how strong I was for going through a major surgery at 15. Lots of people wouldn’t have been able to do that,” Meskin said. 

The options were to either get surgery in December 2020 or June 2021. After much thought, Meskin decided that December was the perfect time to get surgery because online school and limited junior varsity cheer practices would allow Meskin time to recover without missing many in-person experiences.

I was scared things could go wrong, or that I would regret doing it. I am glad I went through with it. Looking back on it, I realized how strong I was for going through a major surgery at 15.”

— Michelle Meskin

Although rushed with little time to think it over, Meskin felt it was for the better. Before getting surgery, Meskin had to undergo blood tests and X-rays to check for good health and get a clear idea of what the surgery would do. In the days leading up to the surgery, Meskin felt many emotions. 

“A few days before my surgery, I started having really bad anxiety attacks because it was such a serious surgery, and lots of things could have gone wrong. But on the day of surgery, I was really calm,” Meskin said.

On Dec. 21, 2020, Meskin woke up at 5 a.m. and went to the Stanford Children’s hospital surgery center. After signing in and being talked through the procedure, she met with her surgeon and anesthesiologist. Finally, after being given an IV and saying goodbye to her parents, she got rolled off to the surgery room.

“Everyone was so sweet and made me feel so comfortable. When I was in the actual operation room, they put a mask over me to breathe in the air to make me fall asleep. I was out in about four breaths,” Meskin said.

Seven hours later, Meskin woke up in the recovery center and felt groggy and thirsty. 

“I ended up drinking a lot of water right away, which you aren’t supposed to do, so I ended up throwing up over ten times that night,” Meskin said.

Typically, patients started walking that first night, but nurses decided to wait until the next day because of Meskin’s sickness. After three days in the hospital, which mainly consisted of sleeping, watching Disney movies, and beginning to walk around, Meskin left the hospital.

Many aspects of Meskin’s life were difficult post-surgery. Unfortunately, less than a week after her surgery, Meskin faced a passing in her family. Because she couldn’t travel anywhere because of her recovery, this took an emotional toll on her.

“I had already gone through so much that me not being able to go just felt like another wound,” Meskin said. 

These were some of the most challenging months she had ever endured. Besides mental health, surgery also affected Meskin’s physical health as well. Her scar and other factors caused Meskin’s self-esteem to fall. Not liking how her scar looked in clothing as well as getting dirty looks from people in public when they saw her back were hardships that Meskin persevered through. 

“I overcame these challenges and realized that I was so brave for going through that painful time. That scar was a memory of overcoming those hardships, so now I proudly show off my scar,” Meskin said.

Being on the cheer team was also affected because of surgery. After a five-month recovery break, Meskin returned. Physically, she was limited to only participating in cheers without being able to dance or stunt yet.

Other factors such as peers undermining Meskin’s pain or stating that she wasn’t trying hard enough challenged her. 

“Having people saying those things to me made me realize that even if you explain what you went through, some people will never understand what you have gone through, and that’s okay. You know what you’ve gone through. Other people’s opinions are irrelevant to how you feel,” Meskin said.

Having people saying those things to me made me realize that even if you explain what you went through, some people will never understand what you have gone through, and that’s okay. You know what you’ve gone through. Other people’s opinions are irrelevant to how you feel.”

— Michelle Meskin

Although a very long and grueling process, Meskin has pushed through 11 months post-surgery and has recovered considerably. She will never forget this process for its impact and reminder of the strength and bravery she had to get through it.

“To people who are about to have this surgery, I would say be ready for the low moments of your life, times where you can’t do anything without help, being unable to do what your friends can, and even being in a bad space mentally. You will forever be grateful for being strong enough to go through something so major it will make you feel like you can do anything,” Meskin said.

About the Photographer
Photo of Noelle Erslovas
Noelle Erslovas, Staff Writer
Noelle Erslovas is a sophomore at Carlmont High School. This is her first time involved with anything journalism-related, and she enjoys it considerably. She writes campus-based articles, which she enjoys because it allows her to branch out and interact with many of the students and faculty at Carlmont. Outside of academics, she enjoys extracurriculars like the Carlmont cheer team.

Twitter: @NoelleErslovas

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