When it comes to Irish dance competitions, Irish eyes are smiling on 16-year-old Bridget Souriyamath.
Bridget, who has been taking Irish dance lessons for the past 12 years, has fared well at local and regional competitions. But it was her participation in the McInerney Championship Feis in Worcester, Mass., on Oct. 29, 2016, that was most notable.
“I was in a competition with 35 to 40 other dancers and danced really well,” said Bridget, who received a sash and a trophy for her first-class performance in her age group.
But even more important than winning first place in the competition – her first time ever – she danced her way to the top a mere six weeks after undergoing cervical spine bone tumor surgery at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.
Pain Leads to Diagnosis
Bridget, who takes dance classes five times a week at the Gray School of Irish Dance, began experiencing pain in her cervical spine in early 2016.
“It started becoming a problem about a year ago and affected the sports I played,” said Bridget, the daughter of Erin and Sith Souriyamath of Old Saybrook, who is also a sprinter on the high school track team. “The pain would run down my neck into my shoulders and down my arms. It felt like I was paralyzed. I couldn’t sleep and it started getting really bad.”
At first, doctors suspected a disc issue. Then she was referred to Jeffrey Thomson, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and Director of Orthopedics at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, whom she met in August 2016. At the next appointment, Bridget met with both Dr. Thomson and Jonathan Martin, MD, a neurosurgeon at Connecticut Children’s.
“They knew right from the start she had a bone tumor, but they thought it was benign,” her mother, Erin, said. The pain, they would learn, was due to an osteoid osteoma located on the C6 vertebra at the base of Bridget’s neck.
“Our lives were turned upside down,” Erin said. “It was the scariest time of our lives.”
Benign Bone Tumor
According to Dr. Thomson, about 11 percent of benign bone tumors are osteoid osteomas, and about 50 percent occur in the hip region. “The tumor is benign, but it is classically painful and keeps the person up at night, so sleeping is difficult,” he said.
“Although primary bone tumors involving the spine are unusual, osteoid osteomas are among the more common benign bone tumors,” Dr. Martin added. “The joint Orthopedic/Neurosurgery Spine Program at Connecticut Children’s typically treats three to five patients annually for these lesions.”
“Surgery is necessary if it is near the spinal cord, which was the case for Bridget,” Dr. Thomson explained. “The other option is radiofrequency ablation, which involves inserting a radiofrequency electrode into the tumor, which heats the tumor and ablates it.”
Surgery and Recovery
On Sept. 15, 2016, Bridget underwent surgery, which took less than two hours to complete. “They couldn’t pinpoint what caused it,” her mother said, “but Dr. Martin said it looked well contained.”
“Bridget’s tumor was straightforward to address,” Dr. Martin said. “Although our team is ready and able to address spinal instability created by neoplastic (benign or malignant) lesions, no such reconstruction was required in her case.”
Bridget, who missed seven days of school and couldn’t hold her head up at first, found out three-and-a-half weeks later that she could resume her normal activities at her own pace, which led her back to Irish dance.
“There were no restrictions and there was no more pain,” she said.
“She had a very quick recovery, which is due to Dr. Martin’s excellent technique,” Dr. Thomson said, “but it is also due to Bridget’s physical fitness prior to surgery. People who are more physically fit prior to surgery will recover faster than those who are not. Her wonderful attitude also helped her recover quickly.”
“Bridget’s rapid recovery was remarkable,” Dr. Martin said. “She is a resilient and courageous young woman.
Thankful for Care
Bridget and her mom say they are grateful for the care she received at Connecticut Children’s. “Everyone was so good to us,” said Bridget.
“I think about the doctors every day and the miracle they were able to do,” Erin added. “They changed our lives, and we will never forget it.”
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Bridget did it again! On Sunday, September 24, 2017, Bridget placed first in the New England Harvest Feis!
A Feis is a traditional Gaelic arts and culture festival.