MUSC neurosurgeon helps Columbia girl walk again

(Source: Chris Hauff/WCIV)

by Stacy

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- A walk on the beach against the crash of the ocean is more than soothing for Megan Peebles; it's symbolic of a new life.

"It's something I wasn't able to do that now I have back. I'm grateful that I can walk on the beach again and have a normal life," Peebles said.

Peebles' story goes back to a cold January day at school in 2008. She was 9 years old.

"They took us out when it was freezing cold, so the slide had frost on it. When I went to go down it, I hit the bump in the middle which was there already. I flew over the edge and landed in a seated position," she said.{}

Megan said{}it caused such awful pain that she couldn't sit through a movie or walk through a grocery store.

"It basically felt like somebody had taken a hammer and hit my back," she said.

She said she lost all her friends and got bullied at school.

"They would be mean to me because I couldn't go on field trips. One of them actually threw a basketball at my back saying, 'If it hurt, you would not be able to come to school.' I wasn't able to come to school for like a week after that," she said.

She said her doctors weren't any better and no one would believe her.

"The{}four years were taken from me that I can never get back," she said.

That changed when she got an X-ray that showed something new: a rare break on a joint in her spine. That was when she went to Medical University of South Carolina{}neurosurgeon Dr. Bruce Frankel.

He said her condition was rare for anyone under the age of 40.

ABCNews4 accompanied Megan to MUSC for her reunion with{}Frankel. Frankel used his own invention to implant a screw in her back. Doctors around the world use the equipment invented at MUSC.

He called it a "minimally invasive spinal system."

"When we put a rod in and tighten, we can pull the spine back in to alignment without other equipment," Frankel said.

Despite the risks involved in operating on someone so young,{}Frankel said surgery{}was a success. But it took Peebles a little longer to realize she had her life back.

"Megan had been down for so long, she was afraid to get up and walk," he said.

Today, Peebles is back on her feet.

"Every day I get up and I'm grateful I can actually get out of bed without hurting," she said. "I was able to get back the life I was supposed to have."

She still stays in touch with{}Frankel and nurse practitioner Sarah Denham.

"Some of the best emails Sarah and I receive explain just a trip to the beach or a vacation that was not possible to her for many years before," Frankel said.

"I think our role as providers is to teach our patients, but she's done a great job at teaching us a lot about staying strong," Denham said.

"I've learned you can't give up in times of pain. If you do, you will not be able to see what the future holds,"{}Peebles{}said.

Peebles'{}future is wide open. She's on the fast track to college, on schedule to graduate high school a year early. And, eventually, she wants to become a pediatric neurosurgeon.