While spinal fusion surgery has put Jordan Kunkel’s dance career on hold, the Balaton teen hasn’t let the physical setback dampen her spirits. She might not know when she will be able to dance again, but she’s keeping a positive attitude.
By Per Peterson
The lengths some kids will go through for a growth spurt. Jordan Kunkel, a bright, extroverted 15-going-on-20 teenager from Balaton recently gave new meaning to the phrase “growing pains” when she shot up two inches in height. But her story isn’t just about what she has dealt with physically over the past year (and any benefits she has reaped), as much as it is about how she grew as a person by dealing with adversity few teens have to cope with.
Last summer, Jordan was diagnosed with Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis — the most common type of scoliosis, affecting 4 in 100 adolescents between the ages 10-18. On Sept. 30, the Tracy Area High School freshman and avid dancer underwent spinal fusion surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester that left her with a 14-inch vertical scar down the middle of her back.
From prep to ICU, her procedure lasted 10 hours.
In spinal fusion, surgeons connect two or more of the bones in the vertebrae so they can’t move independently and a piece of bone, or a bone-like, material, are placed between the vertebrae. Metal rods, hooks, screws or wires typically hold that part of the spine straight while the old and new bone material fuses together.
“They go in and ‘rough up’ the vertebrae,” said Jordan’s mother, Dawn. “She’s got two titanium rods, which they custom fit for length, and many, many screws.”
Prior to surgery, Jordan, an avid dancer, carried on with life with a slouch that was only noticeable without her shirt on. Dawn said to look at Jordan, no one would know of her issues. Sure, she had been diagnosed with a minor form of scoliosis when she was 12, but that was hardly a red flag for the family. A normal, healthy kid, Jordan was hardly a poster child for spinal defects.
For more on this article, see this week’s Headlight-Herald.