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From Bed Bound to Breaking Boards

Student Model Print

In this profile of a person, tenth-grade writer Rachel remains focused on an affliction that affects, but never defines, her subject's young life. Rachel engages her readers with direct quotations and plenty of interesting details.

From Bed Bound to Breaking Boards

She had finally gotten her green belt in Tae Kwando. It was an amazing accomplishment for Kameelah D., a thin African American girl standing about five feet tall. Only four years before, she was told by a doctor that she would never walk again. It was quite evident that not only would she walk again, but she would also run, jump, kick, and punch.

When Kameelah was 11, a routine physical uncovered an abnormal curvature in her spine. It was soon after diagnosed as scoliosis. Kameelah, as well as her family, was devastated. They were told by the doctor that only 10 percent of all children are afflicted by scoliosis, but her family just couldn’t believe Kameelah was a part of that 10 percent.

Her first surgery was scheduled immediately. The doctor had the difficult task of reconstructing Kameelah’s entire spine and then re-situating her organs around it.

“I had never been in the hospital for anything serious before, and I’d never had surgery, either. I was so scared,” Kameelah recalls.

She was given something to fall asleep for the surgery, so that she would not feel anything. Because this surgery dealt with the vertebrae and nerve connections to the brain, the doctor had to make sure that Kameelah could still move her body parts right. Therefore, she was awakened in the middle of the surgery.

“They would ask me to move my fingers, then my toes. I could barely comprehend what was going on. It was bright, and things weren’t very clear. In retrospect, I can’t believe that I was awake while my back was split open, and the doctors had their hands in there.”

The first surgery was successful, but Kameelah would have to return two more times for the doctor to completely fix the problem. It was at the end of the third surgery when things went wrong . . . really wrong. The doctor inserted a metal rod, which happened to be too small, into Kameelah’s back. As a result, it compressed some of the nerves in her spine. She was practically paralyzed from the waist down.

“I’m really very sorry but . . . I don’t think Kameelah will ever be able to walk again,” the doctor informed her parents. But Kameelah’s father, James, as well as Kameelah herself, refused to accept that prediction. Her father, a registered nurse, insisted that the doctor put her in physical therapy and try to rehabilitate her. He insisted that he be there, too, along with the therapist, helping to rehabilitate his daughter. But the doctor wouldn’t oblige. He said that it was a lost cause, and that he knew that Kameelah could never walk again.

“I was really scared. I just remember telling Dad, ‘I have to walk. I have to walk, Dad.’ And he promised me, he swore to me, that I would walk again. He said just what I needed to hear.”

James kept his promise. He brought Kameelah home in a wheelchair and worked with her, doing exercises that would have been ridiculously easy for any other person, but that were excruciatingly difficult for Kameelah. After about a year, Kameelah was miraculously able to walk with a walker. In no time, she even got strong enough to get along without the walker. Eventually, she walked confidently, and even ran steadily. Now, at the age of twenty-two, she can execute a flying sidekick with the greatest of ease.

“Not bad for someone who was told she would never walk again, huh?” she jokes.

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