Patient Interns for School Project

Success Stories:

My name is Maren Helmacy and I am a graduating senior at Friends School of Baltimore. I also have a 38-degree curve in my spine. I finished my scoliosis treatment at sixteen years old, and after leaving the pediatric orthopedic floor at Hopkins for the last time as a patient I knew that I would want to be back in some capacity someday in the future. So, when my school indicated I needed to pick a senior work project for May, I knew it would be a perfect time to go back to the orthopedic world. My former physician, Dr. Sponseller, and nurse practitioner Kristen Venuti were so amazing to let me shadow them. On my first day, it quickly became clear to me that Dr. Sponseller and Kristen know the answer to every single question a patient and caregiver could have because they are both so good at what they do. They also suggested I spend some time at the National Scoliosis Center, and I noticed that orthotists Taylor and Kristian at the National Scoliosis Center were also good at caring for patients and answering their questions. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to learn from all of them.

One of my favorite parts of this internship was interacting with patients, hearing their experiences, and sharing mine. The most important thing I learned is that kids going through scoliosis are in no way alone. The struggles of wearing a brace are shared among many, and often time there is a strong desire for it all to be over. In one way or another the process will come to an end, and although I cannot speak about spinal fusion surgery because I did not go through it, I have learned that a brace is the absolute best thing to help those who have one during their treatment. There was a period where I did not wear my brace, and my curve increased a lot. I was lucky enough to avoid surgery, but my curve is worse because of that. So, if you don’t see the point of a brace, this is it. You have a brace to help your spine throughout your growth, and I promise that you will finish the process feeling happier with yourself if you wear it the number of hours you need to. I was so inspired by kids much younger than me who were wearing their braces almost twenty-four hours each day! Their diligence is definitely paying off because the X-rays show that their curve was not worsening. Having scoliosis certainly does not define you, but it is a part of you, so nurturing and caring for it is so important.

In conclusion, I want to thank Dr. Sponseller, Kristen, Taylor, and Kristian for everything they have done for me. I will carry what they have taught me into college and beyond, and I am so grateful to all of them.

– Maren Helmacy is an eighteen-year-old 2020 graduate of Friends School of Baltimore. She was treated for scoliosis from age ten to sixteen and saw Dr. Sponseller at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She will be attending Kenyon College in fall as an undecided major and will be on the women’s lacrosse team! Maren is the oldest of four siblings and has lived in Baltimore her whole life.