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Hinzee Has Travel Plans

After Late Scoliosis Diagnosis, Patient Graduates from Shriners Hospitals Care

When 20-year-old Hinzee graduates college this spring, she plans to spend some time living in a van and traveling the country.

Sleeping in her van is something she might have found too uncomfortable to bear if she hadn’t just recently graduated from a different program.

Hinzee celebrated her “graduation” from Shriners Hospitals for Children Medical Center — Lexington earlier this month. That means she no longer needs to be seen at the medical center for her scoliosis, a condition that involves a curve of the spine. 

She said her graduation is bittersweet, especially since she had a unique experience at the medical center. Hinzee wasn’t diagnosed with scoliosis until she was 17; that’s significantly later than most. “I went into a clinic for a sports physical to play golf,” she said. “The doctor asked me what I was doing to treat my scoliosis, and I told her I didn’t have scoliosis.”

To her shock and others’, too, she did.

“When they did my initial X-rays, I could hear the shock in the tech’s voice when she saw my spine,” she said. “They were shocked I’d gone all that time without knowing.”

In retrospect, Hinzee said there were subtle signs she might have had scoliosis. She experienced a lot of back pain, but she attributed that to lugging around her big golf bag. Her hips and shoulders were slightly misaligned, but not enough to be immediately noticeable, and when she touched her toes, one side of her back was higher than the other.

Because of her age at diagnosis, Hinzee’s treatment options were somewhat limited. “Because I was almost done growing, I couldn’t do casting or bracing,” she said.

She was referred to the Shriners medical center in Lexington, where she saw Vishwas Talwalkar, M.D.

She opted for spinal fusion surgery to prevent her curve from progressing any further. She had the surgery the summer after her freshman year of college and said she bounced back quickly. “I had the surgery in May and was able to see my friends for my birthday in June,” she said.

She attributes that to the care she got at home from her dad, who is a nurse, and the care she received at Shriners Hospital for Children Medical Center — Lexington. She said Dr. Talwalkar allowed her to play an active role in her care. “He let me have a say,” she said. “It was up to me if I wanted to have the surgery, and if I didn’t, he said he’d help me explore other avenues. I was very in the know the whole time. He always answered every question.”

She referred to Dr. Talwalkar as her “bestie,” and said she’s been thankful to build relationships with the staff at the medical center. “I think it was different because I was older than most patients,” she said. “I was able to connect with them in a different way that was still special.”

Today, she can look forward to van life after she graduates college with a geography degree. She can also look forward to other rewarding parts of life. “When I think further on, I can look forward to a healthier pregnancy someday and to a life with less pain,” she said.

But that hopeful outlook didn’t come without some fear on Hinzee’s part, which she said was mitigated by the staff at the medical center. “I was very afraid,” she said. “The fact that I went through with the surgery speaks a lot about the staff at Shriners. They take care of their patients and make them feel safe and comfortable.”

And although she’s happy to have graduated, she will miss visiting her family at the medical center. “Going to the doctor is not always a fun thing to do,” she said. “But I love coming to Shriners. It’s always nice to see Dr. Talwalkar. Shriners is about a lot more than people think. It’s been a huge part of my life. I’m so thankful.”


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