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Bella's back in the game

High Schools

September 21, 2011|By Matt Szabo
(Kevin Chang / Daily…)

When Bella Secaira heard on Sept. 21 that she was cleared to play softball again, she said she remained calm on the outside.

Inside, she said she was "kind of shocked" when Newport Beach orthopedic surgeon Dr. Michael Gordon gave her the news.

The Newport Harbor High junior has always worked hard on the softball diamond. Secaira, a catcher, was the Daily Pilot Newport-Mesa Player of the Year last season for the Sailors.

In the past three-plus months, she's been working on rehabilitating herself after falling about 30 feet off the roof of an apartment building on June 3. She suffered a mild concussion and a collapsed lung. More serious was a spinal cord fracture that forced her to wear a neck brace for eight weeks.

Secaira went to Gordon to aide her recovery from the fracture. She has also been going to Dr. Scott Stoney of Newport Beach, for pain management and muscle recovery.

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Stoney said Secaira is a special case. She did not require surgery.

"I think in the United States per year there are 11,000 spinal cord fractures like hers," Stoney said. "Out of those, approximately 5,000 have a quadriplegia result. And I think there are about 3,000 cases that result in death, and she didn't have that either. So she's a miracle in process, just because of the fact that she did not have quadriplegia and did not die from her injury. The case was really a miracle, even before I met her."

She still has her good days and bad days. When she works out, there are times when she feels weak or in pain, typically on her left side. Stoney said in the future he plans to use injection therapy on Secaira to break up muscle spasms, and also doing nerve blocks to break up the muscle tone from the nerves.

Mentally, Secaira has stayed strong. Now physically, she is also getting stronger and stronger. It's led her mom, Tiffany Etchegoyen, to say her daughter is in better shape than she even was before her accident.

"[Wednesday] I did a catching lesson with Jennifer Schroeder, the [former] UCLA catcher," Secaira said. "We were doing throw downs and I was just going 50% and she was like, 'Dude, you're even better than before you fell.' That's exciting to hear. I'm not going to stop working and I'm not going to stop pushing myself."

One doctor gave Secaira a diagnosis of no softball for seven months, but she cut that in half. She started with lower-body exercises before Gordon cleared her to do upper-body exercises. A big thing at the start of her recovery was her balance.

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