When I was 14, I suffered from a possible career ending injury. I was training 6 days a week as a competitive Irish Dancer. I had just placed top 10 in the nation at a national dance event. I began training harder and harder and really pushed myself. That was July 2002. By October, I competed in another international competition and came in 6th. I had been having pain in my legs but nothing I couldn’t push through. “No pain, no gain.” Right?! Wrong.
By November, I was dancing at the World Championship qualify event. (I had gone to the World Championships the spring before but had not danced well. It was my first time there and I was not at the level of the other dancers. It was my goal to get back there and place.) It was everything I had ever dreamed of. My whole dancing school was behind me, teachers, fellow dancers, my parents. I was supposed to win that day. But instead, I came in 6th. I still qualified for the Worlds but didn’t and couldn’t dance my best. Because every time I jumped, I couldn’t land. The pain was so excruciating.
I had been to Doctors that told me that I had bad shin splints and to take Aleve and ice my legs. What they had totally missed at this point were the bilateral stress fractures I had in both of my tibias (shin bones). After that competition, I trained so hard for the Worlds (as we call the World Championships of Irish Dancing). It was in Belfast that year. My teachers took me to another competition in January so I could get my feet wet again on an International stage. It was in Dublin and I had really been working hard for it. I will never forget how I felt that day dancing. I just could not move. I was in so much pain but really trying to hide it from my teachers. I did not place well, 10th or something not good enough for me. I cried to my mom on the phone and wished myself back to Connecticut. I remember getting off the plane in NYC and hardly being able to walk. I went back to the Orthopedic and they finally realized that I had stress fractures in both of my legs. I had danced both my legs into 2 pieces. This was 8 weeks before the World Championships.
A Long Road to Recovery
I began what ended up being a very long recovery process. You see the Doctors had no idea what I had been doing to my body. They didn’t know what Irish Dancing was and they certainly didn’t know how to treat a dancer. They started by telling me to stop dancing, completely cold turkey. I had to alternate a walking boot on my legs. I couldn’t climb stairs and had to use this bone growth machine. At each doctor’s visit, they would tell me that stress fractures typically take 6-8 weeks to heal. They would x-ray my legs and the fractures would still be there. I missed The Worlds, the All-Ireland and Nationals that year. All competitions I was gunning for, mentally practicing for, and had new costumes made for. It was the worst time in my life; a really dark time. I grew increasingly depressed but hid it from my family, doctors and teachers. I went to dance class but that grew uncomfortable for everyone. I saw a few different doctors and sought out specialists to look at my x-rays. But they all had the same treatment…TIME.
A Waiting Game
6-8 weeks grew to 6 months, to 9 months, to 12 months. I was going crazy. They had to do something for me; someone had to have a way to fix my legs that would not heal. My doctors finally decided that I needed surgical intervention. They would implant a titanium rod in each of my legs. The reaming out of the bone canal during the surgery would increase the blood flow to the area and hopefully result in an increase in bone growth. The rod would be screwed into place to hold my bone, weakened from the surgery, in one piece. I needed both legs done at the same time; it would be a painful surgery and recovery of at least 3 weeks off my feet. I opted for the surgery. I was 17 at the time and it was spring of my senior year of high school.
The pain was immeasurable. I couldn’t bend my knees and the pain made me so sick. My mother was amazing through the whole thing and we joke about it now, but I seriously don’t know how I did it. I started the road to recovery from the surgery. Lots of PT and OT, I had a walker at prom! But I was so determined to dance again.
Always Find the Silver Lining
A week before the surgery, I had auditioned for a college dance program and was awarded a scholarship, dancing on 2 broken legs. (I only mentioned the broken legs part after I was offered the money!) I entered the dance program with titanium rods in both my legs. To make this incredibly long story shorter, I decided to dedicate my life and career to preventing injuries like mine. Looking back at it all now, I was so lucky. Not lucky to get hurt, but lucky to have survived such an injury, to plow through the healing process, and then get back on stage. I wanted to become the person that helped others do that, but more importantly helped to prevent the injuries in the first place.
There were hundreds of signs and warnings in the lead up to my injury. I just was not educated to see them. My teachers and parents were not educated to see them and even my doctors were not educated to see them. There is a huge void in dance education. Health and wellbeing are not at the forefront of dance training; this seems to only become a thought after the injury. Titanium Dance Wellness was created to fill that void, to educate and empower dancers to take care of their own health and wellbeing, and to give dancers the tools to make educated decisions on their training and the care of their bodies. To offer specialized services to all pre-professional dancers – before the injury happens.
Why Titanium Dance Wellness?
Why Titanium Dance Wellness? Well, Titanium because it’s what saved me and it’s become a part of me. Titanium is strength and a constant reminder of why I started this company and why I will continue to learn and research and teach dancers.