My name is Katie Dowell and I am running for Mrs. Texas. Representing Houston County. Which is located in Deep East Texas or like we call it “paradise in the pines”.
I was diagnosed through a routine screening performed at school when I was 11 years old. My first surgery occurred when I was 13 years old and included the placement of metal rods and two cadaver bones in. The nine hour surgery also consisted of two blood transfusions and was an experience I will never forget. Waking up with a swollen face, blood clots on the bottom of my feet and having to learn to walk again was what I thought would be the worst of it.
However, things took a turn for the worse. After a year of fever, nausea, tremendous weight loss and several rounds of physical therapy, I was told that I had an infection in my back. At this point I was 14 years old and felt like my outlook on life completely changed. I was angry, and I felt that my quality of life had decreased. I already had one big ugly scar on my back and now I would have to be cut all over again, not to mention the chronic pain that seemed to never go away. When the infection was found I was taken into emergency surgery to have the rods removed and to get a biopsy of the infection. I spent weeks in ICU and, quite frankly, I only remember certain things. One moment I specifically recall was when the doctor came in to tell me that I had to have yet another surgery and have what they call a “wash out”. This was traumatic news for me, and for a 14-year-old, the scariest moment of my life. At that point I felt like dying would have been easier than living through more needles and medication. My medical team eventually found an antibiotic that could kill the infection that was in my body, and I was finally on my way to being somewhat normal. I spent many more years in physical therapy and learning to deal with the chronic pain that comes with this disease.
I am now 24 years old and married to my best friend. But to be completely honest, there were times when I never thought that I would see this day. Extreme anxiety followed me around after the traumatic experiences of multiple surgeries. There were days I did not want to live any more because of the pain, there were days I felt ugly and deformed, there were days I did not think I was good enough. Thank goodness for my faith in God and the support of my family and friends,my mental health is in a much better place and I have learned to cope with the pain.
As a contestant in the Mrs. Texas pageant, my platform is advocating for early-stage Scoliosis detection and maintaining good mental health throughout chronic illness. I hope to use this opportunity to reach young children and teens who have faced similar challenges based around medical deformities and disorders, and to show them they can overcome whatever circumstances they are facing. They are not alone. No matter the scars, brace, uneven shoulders and hips, a rib that sticks out, anxiety, chronic pain – none of that takes away from life as a normal person. Our experiences make us unique, our scars make us beautiful.
“Scars show us where we have been, they do not dictate where we are going.”
― David Rossi
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