Alexandra and Avery Stein - Sisters in Swimming and Surgery
It’s been a year of change and challenge for Alexandra and Avery Stein of Fishers, Indiana, as they adjust to massive schedule changes in high school and swimming training, all while recovering from simultaneous surgeries at Riley Hospital for Children.
Alexandra is a junior at Fishers High School, while sister Avery is starting her freshman year. Both are accomplished swimmers but had been dealing with the effects of pectus excavatum, a condition in which the breastbone is sunken into the chest. Severe cases can interfere with the function of the heart and lungs. Recently, the girls underwent corrective surgery at Riley Hospital.
“Alexandra and Avery are recovering remarkably well,” says their mother, Jackie Stein. “Our experience at Riley with the staff and medical team was nothing short of superb.”
It has been a remarkable ride over the last couple of years for the Stein family. The severity of both girls’ sternum depression deepened over time, and when it was time to schedule surgery, the unexpected COVID-19 crisis raised even more concern. Ultimately, the decision was made to go ahead with surgery, with the girls deciding they wanted to recover and rehab as a team. “They decided the best way to support each other, to get back in competition shape, was to go through the ups and downs together,” says Jackie. “Time will tell just how taxing the rehab process will be, but we've already witnessed so many tender moments watching them bond over the experience. The Riley team has been totally amazing. As tired as we all are, this situation has provided an opportunity to create very special family memories in unexpected ways.”
During their stay at Riley, the girls took notice of how caring the entire staff was. “I really connected with several of the nurses,” says Alex. “Most of them were young and so relatable, but one of my favorite nurses had been with Riley for many years. All of the younger nurses told me how lucky I was to have ‘Mama T’ two nights in a row because she was one of the best post-surgery nurses on the unit.”
Avery says, “I feel so good now, it seems like that was a long time ago, but it really wasn’t. It’s only been 10 weeks since our surgeries, and we’re already back to normal life.”
The girls recently met with their surgeon, Dr. Fred Rescorla, and he cleared them to get back to a full-time swim practice schedule. “These next few weeks they’ll have to negotiate a few minor restrictions,” says Jackie, ”but by mid-August they should be free to do anything they want. They are both reporting feeling MUCH better with their oxygen levels. They can now swim 25 meters underwater and not feel totally fatigued or breathless.”
Alexandra and Avery will see Dr. Rescorla in another three months for a second post-op evaluation, at which point Avery will likely get fitted for a brace to correct rib flaring.
“We’ve all loved our time with Dr. Rescorla. He’s thorough, nurturing, listens carefully, but is also very funny. For example, today he told the girls they can resume an active schedule, but they’re still restricted on chores, so they better get Dad to step it up, which they thought was the coolest thing!”
For now, the girls return to “normal” life gets underway as they both start school as virtual students of Fishers High School. “They hope to have in-class instruction after Labor Day, but as with everything these days they have to remain flexible,” says Jackie. “Looking back, even with the minor procedural changes, this summer was the ideal time for them to have and recover from surgery given so many aspects of life are on pause.”
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