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SPORTS

Pedaling her way through adversity BY PHIL BARNES | PHOTOGRAPHY AIMEE MACQUET

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elson mountain biker Zoe Nathan is continuing an amazing run of form since recovering from major spinal surgery which at one time threatened her ever riding a bike again. In late March Zoe, 17, finished second in the under-21 section of the Crankworx event in Rotorua. The event was the first round of the eight-race Enduro World Series which attracts top mountain bikers from around the world. Zoe had to qualify to take part in the series and did so by winning the Phoenix Enduro in Christchurch in February which was the final round of the Continental Series. Also this summer, Zoe finished second in the under-19 section of the New Zealand cross country champs and won the under-19 South Island cross country champs. Five years earlier she was diagnosed with severe scoliosis. Muscles on the side of her spine were being compressed into a lump as a result of her spine growing in an S shape. 86

Surgery only option

Torso brace

She was told if she did nothing about the condition, the curve in her spine would worsen and eventually compress other organs. The only realistic option was to have major back surgery. “Titanium rods and screws would be used to forcibly straighten the curve and hold my spine in place and donor bone would be used to fuse the spine,” she said. She says she worried about how safe the operation would be and whether there was a possibility of being paralysed if it went wrong. She was on the waiting list for a year and during that time her spine curvature increased from 52 degrees to 78 degrees. Two surgeons eventually performed the operation in Wellington, fusing 10 of her vertebrae.

However, the outcome was not what she or the surgeons expected. “My lumbar spine still had a significant curve which meant my tailbone was five centimetres off centre from the base of my skull. This meant a long, intense rehabilitation.” Six weeks later she was back in Wellington having her torso coated in plaster to have a brace made in an effort to further straighten her spine. “The brace was awful. It feels like it is crushing you, pressing in on your rib cage and squashing your lungs.” Even breathing was an effort. She wore the brace for eight months, the first five of which she had to wear it 20 hours a day.

Zoe finished second in the under-19 section of the New Zealand cross country champs and won the under-19 South Island cross country champs.

Profile for WildTomato

WildTomato June 2019  

Local Distilleries | New Hospice | Hanmer Springs | Marlborough Book Festival | Mountain Bike Club | Arts Festival Trust | Fashion Finery |...

WildTomato June 2019  

Local Distilleries | New Hospice | Hanmer Springs | Marlborough Book Festival | Mountain Bike Club | Arts Festival Trust | Fashion Finery |...