Elaina Woods: changed for the better

Senior has battled through the worst of her pectus excavatum surgery


Photo courtesy of Elaina Woods

Senior Elaina Woods has battled past the worst parts of the aftermath of her pectus excavatum surgery

Edison Geiler, Broadcast Editor-In-Chief

Glistening lights brightened the stage, while eloquent music and voices radiated through the auditorium. Later that day, cleats would be ripping up grass as athletes ran cone and kicking drills during the refreshing weather of a cool fall evening.

Most teenagers aren’t involved in both theatre and soccer, but for senior Elaina Woods, she has found a home in each activity, helping her through a condition that little would know about based on her physical appearance.

Woods has fought through pectus excavatum, a structural deformity that causes her chest sink in and can eventually cause intense pressure to the lungs and heart. When her symptoms began to increase in pain during the summer of her sophomore to junior year, her family took her to Phoenix, Ariz., in order to see a specialist that could perform the proper surgery.

“What they do is crank up my sternum, which was putting pressure on my heart and lungs,” Woods said. “My two bars are put in from the side of my chest and are tied to my rib cage above my heart to keep my chest in its new shape.”

The procedure was successful, but afterwards Woods felt incredibly weak.

“Right after the surgery, I couldn’t lift more than ten pounds for eight weeks and I couldn’t play contact soccer,” Woods said. “I couldn’t drive for a long time either. I couldn’t sit up or lay flat, so I slept in a recliner for several weeks. After a year I still can’t do pushups, pull ups, planks, anything that puts a lot of pressure on [the bars].”

Despite the fatigue she dealt with after the surgery, the state Woods was in prior to it was even worse.

“Before it was fixed, my sophomore year was hell,” Woods said. “I couldn’t wake up and function early in the morning because of how fatigued my body was. I didn’t have a first block all year, and I wasn’t able to try to get involved in any of the activities that I enjoy now.”

She was frustrated with the situation she had been placed in, feeling nervous about both the surgery and how her life would be after it. Luckily, she had a supportive family that truly understood what Woods was dealing with. Her father, Troy Woods, and her brother, Sam Woods, both had the pectus excavatum surgery done when they were her age.

“Mine wasn’t as sunken in as their chests were,” Woods said. “I also recovered better than my brother, since I was running after four weeks and he was still in a recliner and in a lot of pain at four weeks. I’m glad they were there to tell me everything is all right. It’s cool to have people around me that have felt the pain, too and understand even though my surgery was a year ago, I’m still not perfect.”

Although she has faced many hardships over the past two years, it has introduced her to something she has grown to love.

Photo courtesy of Sydney Looney
Woods crouches down, examining a piece of art in last year’s spring play Museum. After her surgery, she was able to join theatre as her schedule cleared up. Woods has found a family there where she has made many friends.

“I only was able to get involved in theatre because I had surgery,” Woods said. “Without it I would’ve been sick pretty much all year again and I wouldn’t have been able to be at school enough to be a part of any production in any way.”

Woods’ journey has taught her a lot about life. She says its changed her outlook on the world around her.

“It was major at the time, it controlled my life and limited me,” Woods said. “I hated it at the time, but it is a part of my journey. I’m now thankful for the experience because my faith grew through the process and brought me closer to God. It made me stronger as a person and showed me I can do anything. Overall, I think it changed me for the better.”

Woods is scheduled to have her bars removed her in 2021, her sophomore year of college. She is ecstatic about feeling the best she’s ever been since her surgery. For now, however, she’s focused on soccer and theatre, the two activities she will not let the condition hold her back from.