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Gracie’s complex spine

PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE BRENNAN-NEEF FAMILY

Halloween 2018 was no ordinary ghouls’ day for Gracie Neef. She and both her parents dressed up as the witches from “Hocus Pocus.” To Gracie’s delight, her father’s costume included a long, blonde wig. Even more unusual, Gracie was an inpatient at Boston Children’s Hospital. “The fact that Gracie was going to spend Halloween in the hospital was at first really sad,” says Gracie’s mother, Lucie Brennan. “But we went trick or treating all around the hospital. It was surprisingly fun.” Two weeks later, Gracie had spinal fusion surgery.

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Lauren’s goal: Soccer star beats odds and gets back to the field

neck-tumor“I remember the phone call after Lauren’s fall,” says Dr. Jordan Busch. “My wife said, ‘Lauren fell, and her vertebra is broken, but that’s not the bad news.’” A tumor had eaten away at one of the bones in Lauren’s neck and was lodged in their daughter’s cervical spine.

“I can still see the slow-motion tape in my head,” recalls Dr. Nancy Corliss, Lauren’s mother. “It looked like a routine soccer trip, and I did the three-second count every mother does.”

Nancy started running when she got to three. Lauren, then 12, and a star forward for a JBSC U12 team, was strapped onto a backboard and rushed to Morton Hospital in Taunton, Massachusetts.

This type of tumor is one in 250,000. To find any surgeon with the right experience and expertise is one thing, and to find a pair who had more experience than anyone else was incredibly fortunate. ~ Dr. Jordan Busch

After Lauren’s CT scan showed a tumor in her spine, her emergency physician told Jordan and Nancy, “Boston Children’s Hospital is the best place for your daughter.”

Lauren endured a second painful ambulance ride to Boston Children’s and then an MRI scan, which confirmed the tumor.

As her parents and doctors conferred, Lauren formed her goal — returning to the soccer field. She told her mother she needed a replacement for her lucky #28 soccer jersey. (Her jersey had to be cut off after the injury.)

Though Nancy gently explained the jersey wasn’t the top concern, Lauren remained adamant. After Nancy texted Lauren’s coach James Bede with an update on her condition, he had a new jersey made and delivered it to Lauren.

“I knew he believed in me,” says Lauren.

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