WESTERLY — Two rods, 26 screws and two clamps.
It sounds like the parts list to some type of mechanical device, hardly like something that could significantly reduce or eliminate daily pain. And it most certainly does not sound like something one would want in their body.
But for 17-year-old Jordan Allen, a senior at Westerly High and a member of the school's swim team, she could not be happier those rods, screws and clamps reside along her spine.
It has greatly reduced the pain in her life and allows her to no longer be the object of questions and even ridicule by others.
"I had three curves in my spine, the hump at the top [kyphosis], scoliosis and I had lordosis — my lower back would sway to try to correct my upper back," Allen said. "So I was all out of shape."
When Allen was 10, a school nurse noticed the scoliosis, which is a sideways curve of the spine in an S or C shape. She had physical therapy for the condition.
She was a gymnast at the time and suffered a number of knee ailments — osteochondritis dissecans and Osgood Schlatter disease.
"Osteochondritis dissecans is a joint condition in which bone underneath the cartilage of a joint dies due to lack of blood flow. This bone and cartilage can then break loose, causing pain and possibly hindering joint motion," according to the Mayo Clinc website.
Osgood-Schlatter disease can cause a painful, bony bump on the shinbone just below the knee, according to the website.
Both conditions required Allen to wear knee braces, from her thigh to the middle of her shin, and spend a significant amount of time on crutches as she was going through puberty.
"The hump [kyphosis] came because she was on crutches when she was going through puberty. She was hunched over, and her body and her bones just developed that way," her mother, Dana Allen, said.
Jordan turned to swimming because running and jumping sports were no longer an option. She wasn't a big fan at first, but she had little else.
But pain was still a constant companion, and so were the questions and comments from others.
"During school, I would be uncomfortable and I would try to shift around to try and find a way not to be in pain," Allen said. "There were kids always talking about it — 'What's wrong with her back, she has such a big hump.'
"At first it bothered me, but in high school kids get picked on. It's a part of life. I just kind of blocked it out."
All the while, mother and daughter were trying to find a doctor who could help them.
"She was in pain for four years, but no doctor would touch her," Dana said. "Finally, we went to a third orthopedic, but he told her she was too young for surgery. We were leaving the doctor's office, and at 15, she was crying hysterically because she was tired of being in pain."
One of Allen's friends had similar issues and she had successful surgery with Dr. Craig Eberson, the chief of the division of pediatric orthopedics as Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence.
The Allens met with Dr. Eberson, who said he could help them with surgery.
"I made her wait a year to make the decision," Dana said. "It was her decision, but I wanted her to be sure."
The spine normally has a forward curve of 20 to 40 degrees. Allen's was at 86 degrees, causing the hump at the top of her back.
Last May, Allen had the eight-hour surgery that included spinal fusion. The screws were inserted into the vertebrae and the rods are placed along the spine to help keep it straight.
She was in the ICU for a night and spent six days in the hospital.
The first two weeks at home involved intense physical and an outpouring of bottled-up emotion.
"I was just sobbing and sobbing for hours, and talking about all the kids that made fun of me," she said. "I had to push through [the pain]. There was nothing I could do; there was no going back."
For the first time, her mother learned what her daughter had endured from others.
"I had no idea, she kept all that to herself," Dana said.
Finally, she was able to stand up straight. Her height went from 5-foot-6, to 5-8 3/4, a difference of almost 3 inches. She had to learn to walk again, and she had to learn to swim again.
Now, she is a captain on the high school team and the Dolphins team at the Ocean Community YMCA.
Why did she return to swimming after enduring so much?
"It provides a lot of structure in my life. I have school, I have practice, I have time to get homework done, and then repeat it all again," Allen said. "It gives me structure I didn't have before I started swimming.
"The Dolphins have been like my second family for the last nine years of my life. I know a lot of the younger kids that I used to coach look up to me, and it feels good to be able to give back to them what someone gave to me."
Allen, who hopes to eventually go to medical school, said she has learned the value of patience.
"Things take time. Not everything can happen right at once when you want it to," Allen said.
She has also learned from her mother about what it means to be an advocate.
"If she didn't push for me to go to multiple doctors, I would probably have given up," Allen said. "But I think from watching my mom push through and wanting to help me, that taught me that you can change things that people say you can't."