GARDNER – One of the things I didn’t much focus on throughout my feature story on Celia Barna, which ran last Saturday, is her scar.
I was shown the scar from her spinal fusion surgery. It’s gnarly. It is 18 inches long, according to Barna’s mom, Leslie. It seems like it’s about as long as Barna’s back.
Other than the scar (and what she told me), there was nothing about Barna that would have made me believe she is anything other than a typical freshman three-sport athlete at Gardner-South Wilmington High School. She looks and, for the most part, moves like a normal kid.
“The only time I can tell that she’s had that surgery is when she puts her socks on,” Leslie said. “She doesn’t bend like everybody else. She’s straight. It’s still amazing to me, just to watch her play.”
Celia’s not just playing basketball right now. A member of the 2014 Morris Rowdie Katz 16U Gold travel softball team, Barna spends Sunday and Tuesday evenings preparing for her spring sport. Swinging a bat is one activity that just isn’t the same as it was before spinal fusion surgery.
“It’s different,” Barna said. “It doesn’t feel right yet.”
My original story detailed some of the tough times Barna went through during her recovery. What I wasn’t able to work in was that through all of them, the Barnas stayed resolute.
“We always went with the idea that, until proven otherwise, she was gonna play. She was gonna be able to play, not, ‘Oh, no, I’m not gonna be able to,’ ” Leslie said.
Both admit that Celia had doubts about her future as an athlete. Celia’s surgeon, Dr. Mark Moran, helped alleviate them, Leslie said.
“He always reassured her that she would play, and he showed her pictures of kids that played. He’s got football players,” Leslie said. “You wonder, ‘Are you gonna play like you played before?’ And like she told you, she does have to adjust, but she was a lot more timid, and she’s a setter, so she does have to do a lot with her back, and she’s adjusted to that.”
The road from then to now hasn’t included everything one might expect it to for an athlete returning from major surgery.
“She really didn’t go to physical therapy or do any of that,” Leslie said. “[Dr. Moran] just started letting her run, and then he would let her do arm work. She just gradually built up in sports.”
The timing of Barna’s surgery was designed to get her back in time for basketball season. As the original story said, she returned earlier than expected and played a full volleyball season.
And it’s a good thing for the GSW volleyball program’s sake that she did. She bounced between the freshman and sophomore teams, and her teams only lost three matches. She also enjoyed playing, to the extent, that basketball is no longer her clear-cut favorite sport.
“I wouldn’t choose, actually,” Celia said. “I mean, I wanted to play basketball more than volleyball, but then once I started to play more volleyball, towards the end of my season – Because I wasn’t done with my eighth-grade season yet – I started to like it more as it progressed. And then I liked volleyball season [at GSWHS], too.”