When Lori was four years old, she was diagnosed with scoliosis, also known as a curvature of the spine. At the age of six, she was fitted for a back brace and wore it for the next seven years. At fourteen, two steel rods were surgically implanted on each side of her spine to straighten it. At age fifteen, even with the rods, Lori’s spine continued to curve. Further tests showed a tumor in her spinal cord which ran from the base of her brain down to her tail bone. No doctor in Kansas would operate on this extremely rare tumor (only an estimated three in one million children would develop this kind of tumor).
At age sixteen, Lori and her parents traveled to Memphis, Tennessee where Lori had surgery at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. The surgery was conducted over two full days- the first day was to remove the rods, the second was to remove the tumor. The second day’s surgery lasted nearly fifteen hours. The doctors were able to remove 90% of the tumor, which means there is still part of the tumor in Lori’s spine today. Fortunately, the tumor was benign, but unfortunately, the surgery left Lori a partial quadriplegic. Lori stayed in Memphis in the children’s hospital for four weeks, working on regaining some movement. She was then flown back home to Wichita and was in an in-patient rehabilitation hospital for five weeks. For the next year, Lori continued outpatient physical therapy.
Lori missed three and a half months of her sophomore year of high school while she was gone, but was able to make it all up over the summer with a private tutor. Lori graduated high school and enrolled at Wichita State University where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders and went on to get her Master’s Degree in Speech Language Pathology.
Lori is currently working for the Wichita Public School system as a Speech Language Pathologist and is passionate about helping other students with physical disabilities achieve their career goals like she did.