Clanton Middle student coming back from major surgery

Published 8:32 pm Thursday, April 9, 2009

On March 25, the Wilson family went to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham prepared for the worst. Thirteen-year-old Anna, a seventh grader at Clanton Middle School, was to have corrective surgery to move her spine, which was pressing against her diaphragm and making it difficult for her to sit up and breathe.

Three days earlier, a group at Mt. Pisgah United Methodist Church, the Wilsons’ home church, held a special prayer service for Anna.

“It made me a lot calmer,” Anna said.

The main goal of the surgery was to make it more comfortable for Anna to sit up in her wheelchair and breathe. Before the surgery, she was having to arch her back in order to breathe comfortably. Her scoliosis was also causing significant back pain.

“We were looking at anywhere from one to two months in the hospital,” father Joey Wilson said.

Anna was scheduled for an 8- to 10-hour surgery but was in the operating room for only six and a half hours. She was able to come home just a week later.

The Wilsons say it’s a miracle.

“It was because of their prayers that she got through it so fast,” mother Carla said. “We thank God for what he did.”

Doctors were impressed that Anna was able to maintain her balance while sitting up. If she starts going too far back, she is now able to pull herself up without assistance. Before, she had to wear a hard plastic vest to stay upright.

She has also started to sweat, which is a sign of improvement. The function of glands is one of many bodily functions affected by the nerves located near the point of Anna’s injury five years ago, when she was accidentally shot.

Memories of the accident made it even more difficult for the Wilsons on the day of the surgery, because the intensive care unit of Children’s Hospital was where she was taken that day.

“It was emotional for the family, having to go back to the same place where we thought she might never leave,” Carla said.

Anna’s recovery from the accident involved more than just physical recovery. Her parents wanted to make her aware of gun safety and help ease her fear, so they took her hunting. Last September, at the Bridge Creek Trophy Lodge in Tennessee, with the help of her father, she shot a Texas doll ram from 125 yards away.

“It was real nice,” Anna said.

Now she goes hunting all the time with her mother. She also rides horses, rides four-wheelers and does pretty much whatever her family does.

“She knows a gun’s only dangerous when a person has it,” her father said.

The main part of her life that hasn’t returned to normal is her school life. She will continue to receive homebound services for the remainder of this school year but hopes to return to school next year.

The ultimate goal is to get Anna out of her wheelchair and on the road toward independence.

“The doctors say she is way ahead of schedule. That’s the blessing part of it,” Joey said.

The family thanks their church family, other local churches, Anna’s classmates, the Clanton Middle School faculty and teachers, and everyone in the community and across state lines that prayed and sent gifts, cards, food and financial support.

“We really want to thank everyone for their support, because it was really needed,” Carla said.