Someone You Should Know ~ Tina Mincer
I am Tina Thompson a 9 Year Old Girl, I’m writing this story because whenever I tell my story, people feel sorry for me and I would like for people to know that it was an experience that I wouldn’t trade. I don’t want sympathy. I simply want to share my experience. Maybe it could help others.
When I was a little girl, just like any other little girl, I had huge dreams. I was a swimmer, I was breaking title records and on my way to the Olympics. When one day I was playing at my best friend’s house, her mother stopped me and told me to stand still. She had noticed I was limping. She then realized that my legs were two different lengths. My dreams as an Olympic swimmer were crushed and This is when my new journey began….
After extensive doctor visits, even a chiropractor it was determined that I was going to need a leg brace. My family had little money and my dad belonged to the Elks lodge, and they have a program for kids called The Purple Pig. It’s a fund to raise money for families in financial distress to get the care that children need. With the Elks lodge, they have many members that are Shriners. We were then able to find a sponsor to the Shriners hospital and had the funds from the Elks, for the many trips it was going to take.
The Shriners accepted my case and after many x-rays and visits it was determined that I had Legg-Calve- Perthes disease. This is a rare bone disease that affects children,more commonly in boys. A 4-1 ratio. I was the first girl that this hospital had ever seen with this disease. I was then admitted.
1970- This was a pretty terrifying experience. I was 9 years old, the first time at being away from my parents. I was shuffled in and the first thing I remember is them putting me through the shower. They had to check my hair for lice because there was an outbreak during that time. Some girls that had lice came out with there hair chopped off. There were 3 different wards for girls, the boys were on a separate part of the hospital. There was an infant ward, then a middle girl ward and finally a teenage girl ward. But the one thing they ALL had in common, were the rows of orange bedspreads and silver bed frames.
I was then put into traction, where I would spend the next 8 weeks in bed where I very quickly learned how to crochet. I think this was to prepare me for the cast that was to come, The Shriners hospital provided schooling, so you wouldn’t fall behind while you were there, each time I was there it was a three month stay. To a 9-year-old this felt like forever. They also had dentists and many kids got the dental treatment they needed that they probably wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Mail was also a very important part, I was so far away from home that my mom and dad could only come on Tuesdays and my grandfather came faithfully every Sunday. But every single day I received a postcard from my mom and dad. I treasured those postcards.
When I woke up from my surgery, I was in a cast on both legs with two bars between my legs, my legs were 4 and ½ feet apart. This cast was called a petrie cast. I had to go through extensive therapy to learn how to maneuver with this 25 lb. cast on. I only weighed maybe 80 lbs. After another 4 weeks of therapy I was sent home.
Getting home was even a difficult task as I didn’t just fit in the car. We borrowed my aunts station wagon where I could fit in the back and it was a long 3-hour drive home. Home was a whole other experience. I had to turn sideways to go down our long hallway to get to the bathroom. My dad remodeled the bedroom by cutting a huge square opening in the wall, so I could be in the bedroom or the living room, so I could watch TV. He put curtains across, so I could have privacy when needed. I had to be home schooled. I continued to attend functions that I was a part of. Like girl scouts, I remember we had made dolls from different countries that we had to give a speech about. With speech in hand, two teachers had to lift me up onto the stage to stand behind my doll to deliver my speech. I tried not to let my cast slow me down. The journey to and from any place was a challenge as I didn’t fit in our car. One time my sister and I walked down the street to my friend’s house. It took me an hour to walk two blocks, but I was determined. I got a ride home, but I had to ride in the trunk with one leg sticking out.
After three months at home I returned to the Shriners hospital to have my cast removed. Another three months in the hospital, another surgery and another cast. I went home for three months and then back to the hospital. I had spent a total of 9 months in the hospital and 6 months with a cast. This time before I got to go home, I had to go through extensive therapy again but this time to learn how to walk all over again without the cast.
The Shriners hospital is an amazing place for children. My experience there is one that I wouldn’t change for anything. I seen amazing things happen. During my time in and out of the hospital there was one girl who came in during my first time in, who was 14 years old and had never walked because she had polio so bad. She spent two years in the hospital and was there every time I went in and out. After her two-year stay, she walked out of there with crutches. This to me is a miracle. The lesson I learned from my experience there, is that when you think you have it bad, look around. With all I was going through I was the best off. And to never take anything for granted. The girl in the bed next to me only had one leg, and the girl across from me so severely burned all over her body. The stories go on and on.
Because of my experience with the Shriners hospital, I became a very caring, strong young girl and I was able to lead a normal, productive life. I live life to the fullest. I was a mail carrier for 25 years, have, two beautiful children, whom I believe carry my sense of empathy with them, I ride a motorcycle and I am very active in community events through the Elks lodge where I can give back and The PurplePig Project still exists. A full circle. This is where it all began.
That’s my story Ms. Tina Mincer