After months of anxiety and anticipation, Liam Ehlers '19 finally felt peace in his heart. It was May of 2017, and he had just received the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, administered by Fr. Joe Bradley '73. Earlier that year, Liam had been diagnosed with a severe case of scoliosis, a disorder which causes curvature of the spine. Five anxious months later, Liam found himself a few days away from spinal fusion surgery, a major procedure that would last nine hours.
But despite this dangerous event on the immediate horizon, which can sometimes cause paralysis, Liam was enveloped by a sense of calm. Fr. Joe's counsel and the spiritual healing afforded by the sacrament allowed Liam to relax and trust that all would turn out for the best. He put his life in the hands of his surgeons, and through that trust, he found his calling.
A year after his successful surgery, Liam returned to Kaiser Hospital in Oakland to learn from his physicians about the important work they do on a daily basis. Under the supervision of Dr. Todd Lincoln and Chief of Staff Dr. Raj Baines, Liam was able to scrub-in and observe a spinal fusion surgery up close. He was also able to offer counsel and comfort to patients who were readying themselves for this momentous life event. He offered them the positive results of his surgery, which included zero pain and the ability to play sports again. Liam is also enjoying the added bonus of being three inches taller than he was pre-surgery; he is now six-feet tall.
Liam called his scoliosis diagnosis one of the worst and best parts of his young life. It dealt him extraordinary physical pain and emotional anguish, yet offered him the opportunity to find his calling. "It completely changed my life," Liam reflected. "I definitely know that I want to become a physician and I wouldn't have known that if I hadn't had this experience." His doctors inspired him to have a calm, kind bedside manner, which helped him tremendously through his surgery and recovery.
Liam was lucky to be able to have his surgery as quickly as he did, as the surgeons were able to observe during surgery that the curvature of his spine was crushing his heart and lungs. Had he waited even a year longer, he likely would have died. Instead, Liam is a healthy Serra senior with a fresh outlook on life. He is dedicated to his studies, and carries a weighted GPA of 4.2. He has his sights set on pursuing biology at colleges such as Cal Poly, UC Davis, UCLA and more.
Nine hours, 15 screws and two rods changed Liam physically on May 26, 2017. It straightened his 54-degree and 48-degree curvatures and eased his pain. But during his hospital recovery, he observed two young children, stricken with brain cancer. It put his life in perspective, and stoked his fire to help those in need. Liam feels charged to use his intellectual gifts and knack for mechanics to heal others. It has been a tumultuous journey for Liam, but thanks to Fr. Joe's wisdom and the gifted hands of the physicians at Kaiser Oakland, he now looks ahead to a bright future of service and healing.