FORT WAYNE – Stacia Fester likes to think of herself as a normal high school athlete, but the Churubusco freshman is far from average.
Fester has overcome scoliosis and fusion surgery on her back to return to her passion of playing sports, and her story has put her in the running for a national award.
She was diagnosed with scoliosis, curvature of the spine, in 2011 and had the surgery last June after her thoracic spinal curvature had increased from 32 percent to 45 percent. Post-surgery, it has dropped to 10 percent.
Before surgery, I had a lot of pain in my back, and it was sometimes hard to sleep, Fester said. After my surgery, I felt like a whole different person, and most of the pain has gone away. I feel like I have no restrictions; I am good to go, 100 percent.
That wasnt good enough for Fester, though. She wanted to resume her promising athletic career, which had included multiple sports in middle school. She has returned to competition on the Churubusco junior varsity volleyball and basketball teams and hopes to run track in the spring.
I feel like I am any other girl on the team, and theres nothing really different about me, Fester said. (Sports) was motivation.
I eased into it. I felt a lot different because I was running straight up now instead of arching my back.
Because of her drive to return to athletics, Fester was entered in the USA Today High School Sports and Asics 2013 Ultimate Athlete competition by her mother, Jodi.
The contest is for athletes between the ages of 13 and 18. Stacia was selected as a Top 100 contestant among all the entries nation-wide, and she is currently in the semifinals.
You would never know that she had a spinal fusion from T4 to L2, Jodi Fester said. Needless to say, Stacia was battling adversity and had many challenges. It was amazing to see her drive to do what she wanted to do, which was play sports and recover quickly.
Stacia made it through the first round of voting and needs to win in her region to advance to the finals. The second round ends Monday. The finals will run Monday through Dec. 22.
The winner will receive a trophy with a presentation, a feature article in USA Today, $1,000 donated to the schools athletic department, $100 of Asics gear and Asics training or warm-up gear for their team.
It was a little shocking that I actually got through, Stacia said of advancing in the contest. Everybody is real protective about me, and they are glad I got put into the contest because of everything I have been put through.
Stacias condition is hereditary; Jodi also had scoliosis but never required surgery.
After her initial diagnosis, Stacia was in a back brace for a couple of years before her condition worsened, and the family was referred to a surgeon. Fester had spinal fusion surgery June 4 at Parkview Regional Medical Center.
The Fester family thought her freshman year might come without any sports at all. Stacia, though, had other thoughts.
She was kind of like, if I have this surgery, then I have no sports my freshman year at all, Jodi said. She knew that going into it. It was just her battle with adversity, just the fact she had to overcome the challenges of having back surgery and being a freshman.
Now that she has recovered enough to return to athletics, Stacia said her goals are to move into playing varsity sports next year and maybe college athletics in the future.
It was difficult to watch your child go through that kind of surgery and be in the hospital for so long, Jodi said. She wouldnt give up, and she wanted to do things that we told her to take it easy with.