Avonlea Dunn is a typical 16-year-old. She loves hanging out with her friends and being captain of the color guard for the Arnold Blue Thunder band.
To look at Avonlea, you'd never know she is in constant pain.
Avonlea has a condition called Pectus Excavatum, a chest deformity causing the sternum to cave into the backbone. She's had surgery to correct the problem, but it wasn't totally successful due to the amount of the deformity.
"They put a metal bar inside of her chest. She wore the bar for two years and then they took it out and sometime after the bar was removed she developed costocondritis, which is an inflammation in the bones," says Avonlea's mom.
Last year Avonlea became so ill she had to withdraw from school. She was bed-ridden for several months. Her mother says doctors didn't know if the teenager would live. Her 115 pound frame shrunk down to 85 pounds in just four months.
"There were times when we would take her to the emergency room, they didn't know what to do and were just standing there. I've often said I've spent so much time on my knees praying, I've developed calluses.”
Avonlea says she hated the loneliness she felt through that time.
"I thought about my friends who are going to be like, ‘where are you, what's going on?"
Avonlea was determined to get better. She began daily workouts using her flags.
"When I first got out here and they gave me a flag pole, I was just spinning it and they were like, oh, my gosh, you're really good, so I kept spinning it."
Spinning even though she was in excruciating pain.
But Avonlea didn't let the pain stop her. She returned to school and a normal life, as normal as she could manage, living with constant pain and keeping it a secret.
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