Fifteen-year-old Harrison College student Samara Murrell is looking forward to saying goodbye to a pain she has known all her life.
From a toddler, a brave Samara has been fighting a battle with a painful growth disorder that has warped her legs and affected her ability to walk.
The disorder was made even more painful when people who were ignorant to her condition laughed at her.
But October 17, 2018 marked a new beginning for the teenager.
She underwent corrective surgery for Blount’s disease at the St Louis Shriners Children’s Hospital, a US$500 000, 18-hour procedure that was paid for by the Sandy Lane Charitable Trust.
“All I can say is that I am forever grateful to those who played a role in helping me to get to where I am today. It has not been easy. But since the surgery I have been going to physiotherapy and everything is going well so far.
“My feet are hurting a little, but it is good to be back out,” Samara told Barbados TODAY last Friday, while in the stands at the National Stadium where she took in the action on the final day of the Barbados Secondary Schools’ Athletic Championship (BSSAC).
Standing with the assistance of crutches and fixators on her legs, Samara said returning to school on February 25, after five months of recovery, which is ongoing, was a humbling and heartwarming experience.
She had been away from school since September 2018.
“When I went back everybody was willing to help me. My classmates and even teachers are willing to carry my bag for me. But I like to keep positive.
“It would have been a little hard. Sometimes I don’t want to get up; sometimes I don’t want to go to physiotherapy. But at the end of the day I will be walking strong. The road to recovery isn’t easy, but it can only benefit me positively,” she said.
Commonly mistaken for ‘bow legs’, Blount’s disease is a growth disorder that affects the bones of the lower leg, causing them to bow outward. It can affect people at any time during the growing process, but it is more common in children younger than four and those in their teens.
Samara’s mother, Faye Murrell, is also extremely happy to see the progress the first of four children has been making.
“The tears were worth it. When you see her now, you can see that the legs are perfectly aligned. For the first time in her life, both are aligned. It is just about healing right now,” Faye said.
Faye who accompanied the teenager to St Louis, Missouri, said that while she was now feeling a sense of joy, she would never like to walk that road with her daughter again.
The 42-year-old said it was the most difficult thing she has ever done in her life.
She said she often had to leave the room to wipe away tears so that Samara would not see them.
“From the very next day after Samara had the surgery, they had her up, on her legs and walking round. That in itself was a big difference for us, because here in the Caribbean we are accustomed to having a surgery and lying down.
“But with that programme you were up and moving around. Of course, she was on a lot of pain medication because she was in a lot of pain. There are no excuses. She had physiotherapy for hours at a time, whether you wanted to do it or not. With this type of programme if you don’t move, the pain gets worse and they would have to take you back to surgery,” Faye said.
The mother recalled that in addition to having to force herself to move around while enduring a lot of pain, her young child also had to be treated for multiple infections.
Samara is currently fighting an infection.
“There are different wires and screws that are going through the bone, and everything is exposed. So as you could appreciate, you are picking up whatever is in your environment. I mean I have been going with Samara and supporting her through umpteenth surgeries, and this was a first for us,” she explained.
“But I must commend Samara for being brave, because it is not easy. If I had to show you the videos we took as she was progressing and how they were turning these devices in the legs, at different degrees every day. That was somebody turning your bone every day.
“She shed a lot of tears but she did not quit. At one point they were saying she wouldn’t be able to return to Barbados in December as was planned, but like more around April, because of the amount of healing and getting her up walking and stuff like that.
“And Samara took a child’s crutches and walked with them, and they freaked out. The doctors could not believe what they were seeing. And they give her her own crutches and allowed her to come home”.
To assist the teenager, who competed in the 2017 Junior Monarch Competition to stay on top of her school work, Harrison College provided an alternative three-tier programme that included tutoring during last summer vacation, online tutoring via Google Classroom while she recovered in Missouri, and a combination of face-to-face and online teaching as she underwent therapy treatment in Barbados.
Faye said her family was grateful to Harrison College for ensuring that Samara does not suffer academically.
While in Missouri, Samara’s story was highlighted by the CBS network. She also opened for international recording artiste Javier Mendoza during his popular Christmas Charity event, and was featured on the front cover of Town and Style Magazine, a trendy publication featuring the who’s and who of Missouri.
Faye thanked The World Pediatric Project, Sandy Lane Charitable Trust, Sagicor General, John Roett, Hilton Hotel, Faith New Testament Church of God, Pegwell Community Church, Soaring Eagles Ministries, Home Away Ministries, and the principal and deputy principal and teachers at Harrison College for going above and beyond to ensure that Samara was comfortable whilst at school.
The mother also had a special thank you for the head of the Physiotherapy Department at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Dr Gerry Warner, who is playing a key role in Samara’s recovery programme. [email protected]