JOSHUA TREE — Summer Summerfelt, 14, is a dancer and acrobat, but she’ll need spinal surgery to correct a curve in her spine before she can get back into action.
Summer shot up to 5 feet, 7½ inches tall thanks to a series of growth spurts this year. Her musculature could not keep up with her spine, according to mom Deborah Summerfelt.
“She was noticing that she was having back pain,” Summerfelt said.
They went to Yucca Valley pediatrician Dr. Daniel Fraschetti, who found a significant spinal curve. Ultimately, Summer was referred to Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, and that’s where she’ll have surgery Tuesday.
“We’ve known about it since March, so the anticipation all this time has been a bit difficult for her,” Summerfelt said.
Going into their appointment with the doctor at Rady’s Children’s Hospital, the family didn’t know how serious Summer’s condition was.
“We were thinking we were going to need a brace,” Summerfelt said.
Instead, they found Summer had a 53-degree S-curve between her shoulder blades. A mild curve is around 10 degrees; 50 is considered severe.
“When the doctor came in, he gave us the shockeroo of, ‘No, this is beyond a brace now and surgery is the only option.’”
As Summer faces the stress of surgery, her mom is also feeling the stress of all the costs. Summerfelt sells her homemade soaps at the Joshua Tree farmers market every Saturday, but sales are slow during the summer. She can make ends meet — but not with a major surgery looming.
“We’re a single-parent family, we home school, I have my soap business. We’re a very hard-working family,” she said.
Summer will be in the hospital for five days, with her mom and sister nearby. They are hoping to stay at the Ronald McDonald house, but won’t know if a room will be available until 24 hours before Summer’s surgery.
She’ll need four to five follow-up appointments after her surgery. “If Summer can’t make the ride home those nights because it’s too painful, we’ll have to stay in a motel,” Summerfelt worried.
Then there’s home medical supplies like a shower chair.
The girls’ godmother, Tommie Teal, of Huachuca City, Arizona, started a GoFundMe page to help.
“The family has a 15-year-old Toyota that my husband and I gave to them, but Deborah usually only drives it locally,” Teel wrote.
She will rent a car for the trips to San Diego, and is looking at rental fees, gasoline and meal costs in addition to a motel if the Ronald McDonald house is not available.
Friends at the farmers market will help as well.
The Grateful Gardens Botanicals booth will sell Summerfelt’s soaps for her at the Aug. 10 farmers market. On Aug. 17, Tiffany Maladinich from Grateful Gardens will run both booths.
In the meantime, Summer will begin the path toward healing.
Through the next year, her mom said, she’ll be able to return slowly to her regular activities — dancing, musical theater and acrobatics, along with swimming, hiking and kayaking. Her mom is ready to be with her every step of the way.
“She is a strong girl,” Summerfelt said. “She is a very strong young lady.”