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Former Patient Credits Shriners Hospitals for Children — Greenville for a Pain-Free Life

Take a look at 23-year-old Allie and you’d never guess she once had scoliosis so debilitating that everyday life often felt unbearable – or that she’s currently battling thyroid cancer.

In fact, you’d never guess she was struggling with anything at all. “Allie has always been more concerned with the well-being of everyone other than herself. She never complains,” her dad, James, said.

But nearly a decade ago, Allie’s parents discovered something was wrong when their then teen daughter wasn’t enjoying the active lifestyle she was known for.

The culprit? Back pain caused by scoliosis, which would ultimately require surgery.

“We really struggled to find the right doctor for Allie’s surgery,” said James. But then fate stepped in. “I was attending a health care real estate presentation in New York, and after discussing some of my concerns for Allie with one of the speakers, he recommended an orthopaedic surgeon.” That surgeon was J. Michael Wattenbarger, M.D., chief of staff at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Greenville.

So, Allie and her parents met with Dr. Wattenbarger and agreed that he was the man for the job. With surgery scheduled at the Greenville Shriners Hospital for the summer after her high school graduation, Allie returned home to North Carolina feeling an overwhelming sense of relief. Finally, it seemed, the chronic pain she faced was coming to an end.

In June 2015, Allie arrived in Greenville for her long-awaited spine surgery – but her pre-op exam revealed something that would halt plans to operate: There was a cancerous lump in Allie’s neck. Instead of spine surgery that June, Allie began cancer treatment. And the day after her birthday on July 22, she underwent surgery where doctors removed two tumors and 61 lymph nodes – 26 of which would turn out to be cancerous.

Fast forward just four months and Allie was back in Greenville for spine surgery. This time it was going to happen. Two rods and 12 screws later, Allie was awake. The first words out of her mouth? “Thank you for fixing my back, Dr. Wattenbarger!”

For five days, the staff at the Greenville Shriners Hospital worked to help ensure Allie made a full recovery – and she did. “I couldn’t have asked for a better experience,” Allie said. “The attention and care I received during my time as a patient was amazing. Every single person who works at the Greenville Shriners Hospital genuinely wants the best for you.”

Now, five years later, Allie has no back pain whatsoever. And while “it was hard to say goodbye to Shriners,” Allie’s experience made pursuing her dreams possible. After receiving a degree in nutrition from Appalachian State University, Allie decided to embark on honing her skills in the kitchen.

Now a culinary arts student, Allie is stable with cancer and focusing all of her attention on opening “Allie B’s, a family-owned restaurant” where recipes she grew up on will take the spotlight – and she wants every person who struggles with a medical issue to know: There is hope for healing and the future you have your heart set on.


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