A group with backbone seeks to teach

Holly Nicely has a backbone of steel — literally — but her real strength comes from confidence that her scoliosis, a condition that curves the spinal column, can be overcome.

Nicely, a College of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said she hopes to give others going through the same ordeal the same emotional strength through Iron Marrow, a new club that will reach out to scoliosis patients at Children’s Hospital Boston.

Seven years ago, Nicely was diagnosed with scoliosis and underwent spinal fusion surgery to straighten her vertebral column, she said.

“You have this experience, and you think ‘I want to do something with this,'” said Nicely, who remembered nursing the idea for the group since she was in high school. “After I came to college, I really began seeing that I had the resources to do it.”

Nicely said she hopes patients who seek support from Iron Marrow will learn to love themselves, despite the surgeries, scars and metal rods just as she did.

“You go through a lot of physical pain, but also emotional pain, because you feel like you’re not normal,” she said. “You’re at that awkward teenage stage, and you go through all this pain and ordeal, but you do come out stronger.”

Iron Marrow, which held its first meeting last Wednesday, is still in its beginning stages with about 20 members, Nicely said. The group is working on a training manual for its members, also known as “the Bible to Iron Marrow,” group Vice President Joshua Lee Wright said.

The manual will break down complicated medical terminology and help children with scoliosis better understand their condition, Wright said. The CAS freshman said he understood some children’s confusion with the condition after he was diagnosed with it himself at 16.

“I was so terrified because the doctors never really gave any helpful information about the problem,” Wright said.

Student Health Services Director David McBride said in an email that though most scoliosis patients have already been treated by the time they come to college, SHS would be willing to work with the group as well.

The group plans provide pamphlets at Children’s Hospital Boston that will contain scoliosis and contact information so patients can call when they are ready, secretary Elina Troshina said.

Treasurer Cassie Abueg, who does not have scoliosis, said she hopes Iron Marrow will provide the children with role models and comfort for them and their parents.

“One of the most important things for me is that they know that they’re not alone, and they don’t have to through their diagnosis and treatment alone,” she said.

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