Olivia Newell

This is my fourth year at this school and over the years I have heard a multitude of these speeches. Some were funny, some were creative, some were serious, some were so hard to sit through I wanted to run out of the room, and others were just normal. I hope my speech doesn’t make you want to run out of the room because I’m about to show you some pretty disturbing x- rays.
Believe it or not that’s my spine.
The summer between sophomore and junior year I had spinal fusion. This was not the first major surgery I had had in my life, however it is the most recent. This x- ray was of me when I had scoliosis. Scoliosis was actually caused by my Chiari malformation, I know, big word. And yes, it’s as scary as it sounds. This was the reason for my 2 brain surgeries and what caused my scoliosis, which led to my spinal fusion at age 17. That summer, on June 29, I went into Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to finally get an operation that had been looming over my head for years. I remember shaking in the hospital bed after they told me to get ready. Both my parents were there. They were both trying to calm me down in their own way. I did eventually calm down, and the last sight I remember before surgery was the table I would eventually be open on for four hours. When I woke up, it was very foggy. My body was full of drugs administered throughout surgery to deal with the pain. And I remember laughing. There’s a video of me that my dad will probably play at my wedding where I am talking about a popsicle after my surgery. I swear to God it was the best popsicle I’ve ever eaten. I was oddly happy at that moment. After my two brain surgeries, waking up, I hadn’t been sad, but I was in pain, and I was scared. After this surgery, I woke up joyous.
Two Metal rods, 16 metal screws, and a bone graft later The surgery was successful.
After being wheeled up to my room, four hours after surgery, I was up and walking. Which was not the normal thing to do. After I had been home for two weeks, it was time for me to return to the hospital for my checkup. What the doctor asked me was interesting. He asked “Why do you think you did so well? I’ve never seen a return rate this quickly. All the nurses said, every time they came in you were smiling.”
I honestly didn’t know how to answer the question. I wasn’t trying to impress anyone, I was trying to make the best out of my situation. Life is going to throw you ups and downs, or even damaged spines. Most of us in this room have lived privileged lives in many ways, but that doesn't mean we haven’t faced challenges. What matters is how we face the situation. We could always be waiting for the other shoe to drop. Or we could be happy in the moment.
True happiness isn't being happy when everything in your life is good. True happiness is recognizing what is good in life, even when life is hard. Thank you