Scoliosis diagnosis leads young woman into nursing

September 29, 2023
Nickeil Edwards
Nickeil Edwards

When she was diagnosed with scoliosis at age 13, Nickeil Edwards had no idea that it would help chart her way to a nursing career in the US.

The disease, which causes an abnormal curving of the spine, is a progressive, incurable condition that can only be reduced or managed. It was brought to Edwards' attention during a doctor's visit to a general practitioner in Mandeville when she was in grade eight.

"But then he referred me to the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) ... because they specialised in scoliosis," she explained. Edwards said that after several visits and consultations, a scoliosis correction surgery was recommended to reduce the severity of the curve in her spine and lessen the pain, but she was unable to afford it. Luckily for her and several other students at the time, the Duncan Tree Foundation, through an ongoing partnership with the KPH, was able to fund the surgery and recovery process.

"When I woke up in the ICU (intensive care unit), I was asking what was on my chest because it felt heavy, because they had placed bolts and rods in my spine to straighten it," she said.

"The rehabilitation afterwards was crazy; it was literally [like] learning to walk [again] for the first couple days," she noted, adding that because of early detection and treatment, her condition was not as severe and painful.

Edwards, 22, who recently migrated to the US, is studying to become a registered nurse. She is currently enrolled in prerequisite classes at the Essex County College in New Jersey on an independent student grant. A certified nursing assistant, she said that although she had an interest in the medical field while growing up, the nurses who assisted her during her scoliosis procedure "stood out" for her.

"Since that experience, I found out that I had a passion for nursing, and it wasn't until that experience that I realised that nurses were really the backbone of the medical profession," Edwards said. Her journey was not without roadblocks. Edwards, who is from Bombay, Manchester, sold candies in Half-Way Tree, St Andrew, to fund her online hair business. This helped her to "push her limits", which in turn boosted her self-confidence and drive. She needed that confidence, as after migrating, she began experiencing problems in her household. She bravely moved out on her own and still pursued her career. She started a GoFundMe because persons online saw her story, and despite being initially hesitant, she recognised that she needed the help.

"It was being offered and I took it, and it really helped tremendously," she added.

Though still faced with financial constraints, Edwards, who is also a full-time student, said that she works long hours in the morning and goes to school in the afternoon, because she is determined not to be deterred by adversity. She hopes to launch her own organisation so she can give back and provide information about scoliosis and scoliosis awareness.

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