Spinal surgery renews hope for local softball player

Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 6:16 PM EDT
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HARLEM, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - A junior at Harlem High School has one dream, to play softball.

Right before freshman year, she was diagnosed with a bad case of scoliosis. That’s a spine deformity.

Doctors told her she may never play again unless she has surgery. Spinal surgery is scary, and the results may vary.

We tagged along with Lilly Yonce to find out more about her story.

Yonce has always dreamed of playing at Harlem High.

“Ever since I was in like elementary school, I always wanted to be on Harlem because I always saw them as being so good,” she said.

Her family moved from Grovetown so she could play for Harlem. Her mom Courtney likes to sit behind home plate.

“It’s my favorite seat,” her mom said.

She didn’t always know if she’d be sitting here watching her daughter play

“Her first question, of course, was ‘Will I be able to continue playing ball?’ and his answer, in short, was ‘No,’” she said.

“All my life basically just wanted to play high school ball. Just having the feeling of not being able to do it really took a toll on me,” said Yonce.

Courtney didn’t want this to crush her daughter’s dreams.

She searched for procedures and found a new one called ‘vertebral body tethering’. They went to Boston for it.

“It’s very scary anytime your baby goes under anesthesia, but for eight hours, deflating her lungs, it was absolutely terrifying,” said Courtney.

They put a dozen screws and a tether in her spine.

Yonce recovered, and now she’s on the field again with her mom looking on.

“If she didn’t find this procedure, and took countless hours trying to get it where I could have it, then I probably wouldn’t be where I am today,” she said.

But, she’s here, where she’s always dreamed of being, on the softball team at Harlem.

“It’s amazing, and I just love being here, and I’m so glad that I got to be back,” said Yonce.

The FDA approved that procedure in 2019. It’s meant for younger people with developing bodies and is designed to allow flexibility in the spine.