Eighteen-year-old Jared Boldt is strong and confident. As a senior at Chattanooga Christian School who plays soccer and is committed to attending Berry College in the fall of 2016, he’s focused on his future. But Jared’s story isn’t a simple one. It’s been a long road getting to where he is today, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
In 2012, Jared’s pediatrician noticed that he had a dip in his chest, and recommended that he be evaluated by Dr. Lisa Smith, pediatric chest wall reconstructive surgeon at University Surgical Associates. Dr. Smith explained that his condition, called pectus excavatum, was relatively mild and could be corrected with surgery.
“The doctors told me that my sternum would continue to get worse and push inward on my heart. I play soccer, and I didn’t want this condition to keep me from running or playing my best,” says Jared.
Although not the most important part of his decision, Jared also felt self-conscious about his appearance. During middle school he endured teasing, staring and questions, and he never wanted to take off his shirt in front of his peers.
The Road to Recovery
In the summer of 2012, Dr. Smith performed the Nuss Procedure on Jared where a stabilizing bar was placed under the breastbone to correct the depression in his chest. He spent five days in the hospital before returning home with pain medicine and strict instructions to remain still and not twist his torso in any way.
Jared was told that his complete recovery would take 6 months. For many children and teens who have this procedure, it’s scheduled for early summertime to allow a few months of intensive recovery before school starts back. Two months into his recovery, Jared had a setback. While resting on the couch, his cat jumped down on to his chest, and he made a sudden twisting movement. Unfortunately, that meant he had to go back to surgery to reposition the bar.
Although this second surgery slowed the process, Jared did recover completely. Because of the impact this procedure, he used it as the basis of his college essay question that asked what one major event had changed his life. “Once I fully recovered, I felt more confident. I started lifting weights, running more, being more active. I felt better about myself, and I don’t think I would have realized that I wasn’t as confident as I could be if I hadn’t had the surgery,” Jared says.
When asked if he would have this surgery again, he doesn’t hesitate. “It wasn’t easy and it isn’t a quick process, but it’s absolutely worth it. My advice to someone seeking this surgery is to be patient and allow your body to heal – it’s a tough lessen to learn, especially for an active teenager.”
Read an excerpt of Jared’s college entrance essay:
Before my surgery, I was a naive little boy who was sensitive and did not have much confidence. I hid myself from all public eyes and felt like I didn't belong. Through this painful struggle I gained confidence and happiness. Through the slow, tiresome months of recovery I started noticing changes. My body had grown stronger through this process. I discovered muscles that I never knew I had. Though it was a struggle to get through this trial, I learned character and perseverance. After undergoing this life changing experience I felt reborn; I was a whole new person. I became a much stronger athlete, pushing myself to limits like never before and felt better all around.
I have never been the same since then. I gained so much confidence in every walk of life and my whole attitude changed from being full of negativity, to being optimistic. Following my surgery, I went back to the hospital to counsel and mentor young boys who were considering having the surgery. I explained to them how much of a positive effect this surgery had on my life. I encouraged them to get past the bullies and to not let their deformity define them. I will never regret my decision to have this surgery. I went from being a boy to a man in a matter of months. This surgery changed me forever. Because of this, I plan to pursue a career as a physician, possibly a surgeon, to help people overcome difficulties in their lives as I experienced.
Click here to learn more about the Pectacular! Chest Wall Reconstruction Program.