CR athlete fights back from paralysis

 

Caesar Rodney High multi-sport athlete Zoe Scott is doing much better now but is still recovering from a spine tumor that left her paralyzed for two days. (Cape Gazette photo/Dave Frederick)

Caesar Rodney High multi-sport athlete Zoe Scott is doing much better now but is still recovering from a spine tumor that left her paralyzed for two days. (Cape Gazette photo/Dave Frederick)

DOVER — There are just a pair of random memories stuck in Zoe Scott’s mind from those forgettable two days.

She still has the smiling image of one of her friends’ faces and the bitter taste of some unsweetened applesauce.

“It was really gross,” Scott says with a laugh.

But the promising Caesar Rodney High athlete didn’t feed herself that day in A.I. DuPont Children’s Hospital.

She couldn’t.

Pretty much Scott’s entire 6-foot tall body was paralyzed.

What had started out as a possible concussion suffered in a basketball game led to doctors finding a tumor on the 16-year-old’s spine.

And what began as a five-day stay in the hospital for surgery turned into a challenging seven-month ordeal that has left Scott still trying to recover all her physical abilities.

) Zoe Scott has started playing basketball again this summer although she still struggles with catching and shooting the ball. (Photo courtesy Casey Scott)

) Zoe Scott has started playing basketball again this summer although she still struggles with catching and shooting the ball. (Photo courtesy Casey Scott)

In her last high school basketball game before all this started, on Jan 14, Scott poured in 20 points and pulled down almost as many rebounds in a win over Polytech.

Now, when she returned to the court with CR’s City of Dover summer-league team last month, Scott still couldn’t really shoot and has trouble catching the ball.

For the time being, the only fingers she has feeling in are her two pinky fingers.

Scott knows that makes her an offensive liability in games. That’s why she appreciates her teammates’ patience as she works her way back.

“It’s harder because, on defense, we can play five-on-five,” she said after helping the Riders win the summer-league title. “But, on offense, it’s more of a four-on-five. But they understand.”

“Having her back out there just feels right,” said teammate Alexis Reid. “Every game you can see her improve at some point. … It’s hard because you want to pass her the ball and then you forget.”

Certainly, though, having trouble shooting a basketball is a far cry from being paralyzed.

Scott woke up unable to move her body after having the tumor removed in an operation on Jan. 18.

While Scott may not have many clear memories of those two days, her mother, Casey Scott, hasn’t forgotten what it was like to see her daughter paralyzed from the neck down.

Considering that doctors originally thought Scott might be out of the hospital in five days, that development came as a shock.

“I just remember crying because she kept crying out for me — she wanted her mom,” said Casey Scott. “She was scared. That happens a lot with anesthesia for anybody. But her not being able to move and not being able to do anything for your child, it kind of makes you feel helpless. … It was very hard.”

Doctors believe Scott’s paralysis was her body reacting to having the pressure of the tumor removed from the nerves on that area of her spine.

If there’s a miracle in this story, though, it’s that doctors found the tumor at all. They really discovered it by accident when they did an MRI scan to check Scott for the possible concussion.

) Zoe Scott has gone through months of physical therapy after having a tumor removed in January. (Photo courtesy Casey Scott)

) Zoe Scott has gone through months of physical therapy after having a tumor removed in January. (Photo courtesy Casey Scott)

Scott had hit her head hard on the floor in the Polytech game.

“Apparently it’s a rare type of tumor that normally is never detected,” said Casey Scott. “Once it’s large enough to be noticed, the individual who has the tumor ends up being paralyzed for the rest of their life. It’s irreversible. We were really lucky that they found it.”

“I told her,” said CR coach Bill Victory, “sometimes things happen to you so that other things can be revealed to you.”

Not only is Scott a good basketball player but she also plays volleyball and won the Division I state title in the high jump as a freshman.

Following the surgery, however, she had to learn to feed herself and to walk again. Every time she stood up, Scott would feel nauseous.

“Just her first time getting out of the bed to the chair was huge,” said Casey Scott. “That was such a big accomplishment for her to be able to get up.

“Even the first time she was able to move her arm and reach for something. … but she still couldn’t pick it up. Just because the nerves woke up in your arm doesn’t mean your fingers will work. It was little by little.”

“It was baby steps,” said Zoe Scott. “I remember my first day walking. At first I could only stand up for like 10 seconds. Then, when I started walking, I think I was really excited. I was walking extra fast. They had to tell me to slow down.”

In all, Scott spent three and a half months in the hospital at A.I. DuPont. She then went through a few more months of outpatient, five-day-a-week physical therapy.

Casey Scott said the ordeal has definitely changed her daughter.

Zoe used to talk about being in the Olympics. Now, inspired by the staff who worked with her, she’s interested in becoming a physical therapist.

Casey Scott remembers when they were staying at the Ronald McDonald House, where families can stay while their children are undergoing treatment at A.I. DuPont. Scott didn’t want her accomplishments recognized like the other patients staying there.

“I asked her, ‘Why?’” said Casey Scott. “She said she realizes what she’s gone through. But there’s other children who have gone through 10 times worse experiences than she’s gone through. I think it’s helped her realize how lucky most of us all are.”

Every six months, Scott will have an MRI to make sure the tumor isn’t growing back. But doctors remain confident that she’ll eventually recover completely.

A straight ‘A’ student, Scott hasn’t given up on her dreams of playing a sport in college, either. The physical setback has made her want to work even harder.

“I was really eager to get back to playing sports so I definitely put in a lot,” said Scott. “I did as much as I could to get back as soon as I could.”

“She was determined to not only support the family but she wanted to continue to play,” said Casey Scott. “She said that was her therapy. And it’s going to help her get back. That’s what makes her happy.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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