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More than skin-deep: Students share journeys with concealed health conditions

More than skin-deep: Students share journeys with concealed health conditions
Sophomore Stella Xue: Os Trigonum
Sophomore Stella Xue: Os Trigonum

As a sixth grader, sophomore Stella Xue winced each time she took a step 鈥 sharp pain traveled through her foot at every pace. After a visit to the doctor, she discovered the culprit: a small, extra bone in her foot, known as the os trigonum.

The os trigonum, present in around 15 to 30% of people, sits behind the ankle bone. Those who have it are born with it, and while some never experience discomfort because of the bone, others can develop great pain after injury or heavy use of their ankle.

Xue had been extremely active as a basketball player, swimmer and dancer, which strained her ankle. After her diagnosis, she temporarily stepped back from sports to recover, spending six months in physical therapy.

During these sessions, she was able to rest her foot and recover from the worst of her pains. She also learned how to take better care of her foot while easing it back into normal use.

鈥淚 (would walk) really weirdly, kind of with a limp where I didn鈥檛 put that much pressure on it,鈥 she said. 鈥淚t helps in the moment, but when you do it for such a long time, you gain bad habits while you鈥檙e walking. The physical therapy was getting me back to walking normally 鈥 putting pressure back on my foot while also trying to work out the pains in it.鈥

In eighth grade, Xue returned to sports through taking up tennis. However, her ankle still made her more injury-prone, causing her to sprain it while playing tennis and hurt it two more times during her P.E. class.

鈥淢y first tennis class, I sprained my ankle,鈥 she said. 鈥淏ut I thought it was just another one of my ankle scares. I didn鈥檛 think it was serious. I thought I could just walk it off. … (After hurting it again), we went to a doctor, and the doctor was like, 鈥榊ou sprained it three times. What are you doing?鈥欌

Though Xue wore a brace for several months to help support her ankle, she now mostly only wears it when she does long or highly intensive activities.

鈥淚t鈥檚 not good to get dependent on the brace,鈥 she said. 鈥淪o after a while, when I did actually get back into tennis, I started taking it off more and more to get more acclimated. Now, I can go for a two- or three-hour session without it, which is pretty good.鈥

Xue has learned to work with her ankle and hasn鈥檛 let it stop her from continuing tennis and also beginning running this season.

鈥淪ometimes if I run for too much 鈥 especially if we do a mile during P.E. or something 鈥 it will start aching again,鈥 she said. 鈥淏ut it鈥檚 not that painful anymore.鈥

Junior Charlie Ott: Eczema
Junior Charlie Ott: Eczema

After visiting the doctor in November 2022 for what he thought was just an allergic reaction, junior Charlie Ott discovered that his regular skin inflammation were a symptom of a condition that he had unknowingly dealt with his whole life.

Atopic dermatitis, more commonly known as eczema, weakens the skin鈥檚 protective barrier function, causing it to become dry, itchy and bumpy. While the exact cause of eczema is unknown,
according to the National Eczema Association, it often develops due to genetic or environmental triggers. Ott鈥檚 eczema is mostly the result of an overactive immune system, as various foreign substances tend to irritate his skin. There have been times 鈥 ranging from a few days to a couple of months 鈥 when Ott鈥檚
skin would flare up unexpectedly.

鈥淚t was extremely painful to do simple things like put on clothes or rest my arm on my desk,鈥 he said. 鈥淚 never found out what caused it, so many things flared up my eczema that it was difficult to find out exactly what might have caused it.鈥

When Ott was young, rashes and itches seemed normal: His immune system was still developing. As he grew older, however, they persisted and worsened, resulting in uncomfortable interactions with peers.

鈥淎 lot of people thought that if they touched me or something, they鈥檇 get flare-ups or a rash from me, which is not true,鈥 he said. 鈥淓czema is just something you鈥檙e born with 鈥 it鈥檚 in your body and won鈥檛 spread to anyone else.鈥

While Ott鈥檚 eczema lessened in severity during middle school and early high school, it reemerged in his sophomore year, spurring anxiety.

鈥淗aving all those noticeable rashes on my arm, I was always worried people would want to be away from me or that they would think of me differently just because of how my arms look,鈥 he said.

His November diagnosis that year provided clarity and helped him begin to manage his symptoms.

鈥淢y doctor told me I had an autoimmune condition, and I got a little scared because it meant that my body was attacking itself, and I didn鈥檛 like that idea,鈥 he said. 鈥淪o I was worried for my future, but it鈥檚 a pretty treatable condition.鈥

Throughout Ott鈥檚 medical journey, he has been prescribed various creams and steroids. After exploring many short-term solutions, he was eventually prescribed Dupixent, a monoclonal
antibody drug, at the end of last year.

鈥淏eing on Dupixent has been peaceful,鈥 he said. 鈥淎lthough once every two weeks I have to take a pretty painful injection, it鈥檚 totally worth it to be able to put my arm on a table without it stinging or put on my shirt without my arms getting itchy again. I haven鈥檛 had to worry about eczema in a long time, and that鈥檚 just been a real blessing.鈥

As a wrestler, eczema didn鈥檛 directly impact Ott鈥檚 performance, but it left a persistent worry as he started back up again the season after getting diagnosed.

鈥淲hen I was getting my athletic clearance for wrestling, they took quite a while to clear it because they were worried that since I have sensitive skin, I might worsen my eczema or contract some skin disease really easily,鈥 Ott said.

Ott鈥檚 experience with eczema has profoundly changed from the confusion of his earlier years: Now, with the proper diagnosis and medication, he is able to better understand and feel comfortable in his own skin.

鈥淕rowing up, I didn鈥檛 really know what it was,鈥 he said. 鈥淚 just knew that my parents would always have to take some extra time to take care of it. Now that I know it鈥檚 a genetic thing and started treating it with medicine, I don鈥檛 worry as much about what I wear or eat, and I don鈥檛 even have to worry as much about getting flare-ups anymore.鈥

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Vivien Chen, Lifestyle Editor
Senior Vivien Chen is a lifestyle editor for 麻豆放映免费 and has been on staff since January 2023. She likes birds, robotics and skiing.
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Senior Safina Syed is a features editor and SEC liaison for 麻豆放映免费 and has been on staff since January 2021. When she's not reporting, you can find her listening to music, reading and cooking.
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