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Lauren Tandy: Vikette sophomore overcomes hip problem to be team's No. 2 golfer.

A few weeks ago, a stranger walked up to an Iowa military veteran (so identified by the cap he was wearing) and handed him a note from a Vinton-Shellsburg High School student.
The unsigned note thanked the anonymous vet for his service to our country years ago. It moved him to tears.
Many Iowa veterans have received such notes – all unsigned – from Vikette golfer Lauren Tandy this year. Yet they never know whom the letters are from, or what motivated Lauren to write such inspiring notes to complete strangers.
Big words
The notes started in December, when Lauren, the daughter of VS educators Scott and Melissa Tandy, suddenly found she had some extra time on her hands, for medical reasons that require an unabridged dictionary to fully define and explain.
Lauren spells it out: “Femoroacetabular impingement. Acteabular retroversion. Coxa profunda. Labral tear.”
What those big words represent is a congenital hip problem that could only be cured with a radical surgical procedure that left the runner and golfer sidelined longer than she would have preferred to be, and looking for something to do.
Lauren’s golf coach, Janet Woodhouse, sums up Lauren’s medical situation in words very easy, but painful to understand: “She had surgery at Mayo in December; they broke her pelvis in 3 places to correct a hip problem.”
It would be hard for someone unfamiliar with Lauren’s medical history to look at her photo from the first golf meet of the season – standing next to Mara, holding that silver medal, flashing what her teammates and coach call her “contagious, stop-you-in-your-tracks” smile – and imagine the pain that smile at times conceals.
“I really started noticing the pain in my freshman year of sports and activities,” recalls Lauren, who competed in cross country and golf last year.
She eventually visited several doctors and clinics, being told that what she needed was “to rest,” before finally visiting a hip specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Lauren’s uncle is a radiologist there; he recommended the specialist.
Lauren’s first appointment there was Oct. 31, 2013. That’s when she first learned the medical meaning of those big words listed above.
Femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) is a condition where the bones of the hip are abnormally shaped. Because they do not fit together perfectly, the hip bones rub against each other and cause damage to the joint. The FAI causes the retroversion and coxa profunda, which basically mean that the ball of the hip joint does not fit properly in the socket and often leads to tearing the labrum of the hip, the elastic tissue designed to allow free and comfortable movement.
Those conditions are congenital but rarely detected at birth, said Lauren. The youngest patient of her hip surgeon was 12 at the time of her surgery; Lauren was 15.
Long recovery
On Dec. 2, Lauren underwent two procedures, arthroscopic and preiacetabular osteotomy (PAO). After breaking her pelvis, doctors re-aligned it, inserting one 6-cm-long and one 8-cm-long screw to hold the bones in place.
“I had a long recovery ahead of me,” Lauren recalls. “Current research indicates that only 50 percent of PAO surgery patients return to all pre-surgery activities one year post-op.”
For a while, Lauren said she felt resigned to be in the 50 percent that does not.
“I had a few days where I just basically stayed in bed and cried,” she recalled.
But with the encouragement of her parents, and her close friend and golf teammate Mara Jessen, Lauren soon realized what it was going to take to recover.
“I had to change my attitude,” she recalls. “Instead of whining and asking someone to help me get out of bed, I decided to do it myself.”
For the first few weeks, Lauren announced she would not be playing golf for the 2014 season.
“Yes you will,” replied Mara.
“She was tough on me,” Lauren says of her teammate. Now the two are the No. 1 and 2 golfers on the Vikettes team. Mara led VS with a 47 during their first contest of the season: Lauren was a stroke behind at 48.
“She kept saying ‘I am not going to play,” recalls Mara. “But I knew she would, and her mom kept saying to her, ‘Yes, you will.’”
“Mara told me that I would play if she had to carry me,” recalls Lauren.
Nobody needs to carry Lauren from tee to tee, although Coach Woodhouse did help her get a waiver from the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union to use a golf cart during meets.
“She is determined to play,” says Coach Woodhouse.
After four weeks of not being able to put any weight on her leg, Lauren began getting around with crutches, and started physical therapy at Virginia Gay Hospital.
Sarah Eikenberry, MPT was Lauren’s therapist at VGH.
“She kept telling me I can do it,” Lauren recalls, adding that her parents, coach and Mara also were instrumental in her recovery, constantly offering her encouragement to keep trying, despite the pain.
Lauren still is, at times, in a lot of pain; some days she admits that she overdoes it and pays for it with more pain the next day. But she has returned to the golf course, and even was able to run for five minutes on a treadmill a few days ago. She says she can’t wait to visit her surgeon this summer and tell him about all the things she is doing – things he predicted she would not be able to do by now.
Important lessons
While naturally, Lauren would have preferred to not go through this experience, she said it has taught her much about life, and given her new opportunities. She spent much of the winter working with the new popular craft device known as the Rainbow Loom, weaving small rubber bands into bracelets or key chains which she has given to about 30 friends and family members.
She also began honoring veterans while she was recuperating.
Her grandfather, Merlyn Frick of Eldridge, takes veterans to their medical appointments. Lauren has written about two dozen letters to thank them for their service.
All of those veterans – including that man in the cap at the gas station – have been very impressed that a teenager would take time to write to say thanks.
“They all have a heartfelt appreciation that somebody that young would be aware and sensitive to what they have gone through and how they have served their country,” said Frick. “I think Lauren has a real appreciation for some of the suffering that other people have gone through and realizes that she’s pretty lucky.”
Lauren’s grandpa is proud, of course, but he says what he saw this winter in his granddaughter is something those who know her have seen for years.
“What she is doing really fits with her personality and how she cares for people,” he said.
As for Lauren's personal perspective, she said there is one lesson she has learned very well from the experience of the past two years, and her recovery from surgery.
Whether she is facing unpronounceable medical procedures, a bad lie on the golf course, or finding new ways to fill her hours of recovery by sharing something inspiring with someone else, Lauren said there’s a simple truth her trials have taught her: “Dreams don’t work unless you do.”

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Comments (3)

Super job Lauren !
By: Eric Upmeyer on April 18th 4:33pm
Lauren, you have the attitude of a life winner. You will be able to call upon that many times in your future to deal with whatever comes your way. Combining that with your concern for others will lead to a very giving and self-fulfilled life. Your mom and dad should be and will continue to be very proud.
By: Don Eells on April 19th 1:59pm
Lauren, so proud of you for all your accomplishments and determination with your hip and golf...but most proud of you for what you accomplish with your heart. Love you! Aunt Sara
By: Sara Schurr on April 24th 2:44pm

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