OVERCOMING ADVERSITY: MYKALA CHAVEZ, CLOVIS HIGH SCHOOL
18-year old Mykala Chavez of Clovis has succeeded in the face of adversity.
Mykala started swimming at the age of ten, but she didn’t take to it at first like a fish to water. “My first week, I didn’t want to continue,” she recalled. “The coach said it was a 100-meter warmup and I went and cried in the bathroom. My dad said to give it two weeks. After those first two weeks, I loved it ever since.”
While she continued to swim, her family noticed something abnormal. “They noticed a hump on my back when I was on the starting blocks at the pool,” Mykala said. “I thought it was a pulled muscle. They tried massaging it, but it wasn’t going away.”
At the age of 13, Mykala was diagnosed with scoliosis, which is an abnormal curvature of the spine. “I was very confused at first,” she explained. “You don’t learn much about it at school. There’s a test in the nurse’s office, but you don’t know what it’s for. They had to explain to me what it meant.”
Her curvature progressed, causing a rotation of her ribcage resulting in a lessened lung capacity. Taking a deep breath to complete her practice sets became a challenge. “I wouldn’t be able to do certain things in the pool and I never understood why,” she said. “It was all because of my back.”
The first doctor she saw immediately told Mykala she needed surgery. “That put me in tears,” she said. “I didn’t want major surgery. So, we started chiropractic care for about three years.”
In addition to her schoolwork and swim practice, Mykala underwent spinal treatments 9 hours a week to try and prevent the spine from worsening. “For the first few years it helped, but I hit my growth spurt and the curvature got worse. My back was hurting every day. I was ready for it not to be hurting anymore.”
In January of 2017, her scoliosis had worsened and the surgery she was trying to avoid suddenly became necessary. She underwent a medical procedure to help straighten her spine. “We had to go out of state because no one here does that kind of surgery,” Mykala said. “We went to New Hampshire for a procedure called Vertical Body Tethering.” The procedure would leave her with a collapsed lung and 10 screws in her back. She was not allowed to bend or twist or lift for three months. However, that wouldn’t stop Mykala from getting back into the pool in three weeks. She started walking in the water and kicking on a kickboard. After 12 weeks, doctors cleared her to begin swimming once again. Mykala started workouts to build up her strength.
But there was another setback.
After weeks and weeks of physical therapy, Mykala was involved in a car wreck. “An SUV pulled out and almost t-boned me,” she described. “I couldn’t stop and her front tire went onto my bumper and she flipped.” Mykala suffered a broken wrist as a result of crash. “It made school difficult, let alone swimming,” she said.
Mykala had already come too far to let this injury put out the flame of her passion for swimming. Mykala asked the doctor for a removable cast/splint to allow her to get back into the pool. Mykala was back in the water turning laps with her teammates. Nothing was going to stop her from competing.
This season, Mykala qualified for the state swim meet, both individually and in relays for Clovis High School. She swam in the 100-meter free style race and the 100-meter backstroke event. Her 200-meter freestyle relay team finished fifth.
Mykala is also a member of the National Honor Society and the Ignite mentor program in Clovis. She also volunteers with the Special Olympics. Mykala plans to pursue a degree at West Texas A&M to become a veterinarian.
Physical limitations didn’t prevent Mykala from pursuing her passion, a message we can all remember.