High School Sports

Hip pain in the past, Tumwater’s McKenzie Campbell focuses on golf

These days McKenzie Campbell walks fairways on golf courses and hallways at Tumwater High School. Her wheelchair and crutches, so much a part of her life for so many years, sit and collect dust at her home.

“She’s gone through a lot,” her mother, Laurie Campbell said. “But by talking to her, you wouldn’t know it.”

Campbell was afflicted with a rare hip disease that caused years of pain that eventually led to her getting a total hip replacement at age 15, the youngest patient at Seattle’s Virginia Mason Hospital to undergo that procedure. For the first time in eight years, the 16-year-old sophomore is pain-free.

Sports, like her favorite volleyball, were out of the question until recently when her physician cleared her to play golf.

“I was struggling to find something other than school to do because I need that,” Campbell said. “I’m having a blast. It’s low-key and it’s not stressful. It’s a lot of fun.”

Campbell was diagnosed in second grade with Leggs-Calve-Perthes, a disease that is caused when blood supply is interrupted to the head, or ball point, of the hip joint. Without sufficient blood flow, the bone starts to die.

It is estimated that the disease afflicts about 1 in 1,200 children, mostly boys. Girls make up just about 25 percent of those who get Leggs-Calve-Perthes.

Laurie and Dan Campbell first noticed their oldest daughter’s troubles walking at age 4. Following the diagnosis, Campbell saw specialists at Boston Children’s Hospital, where the family would make vacations for scheduled visits and surgeries.

Laurie Campbell said her daughter’s condition became a worst-case scenario. McKenzie had eight surgeries as doctors attempted to postpone a hip replacement for as long as they could with a series of plates and pins to stabilize the joint.

“They were trying to hold off until her 20s,” Laurie Campbell said.

The disease caused more than only hip issues for Campbell. She wore a back brace in seventh and eighth grade for scoliosis, became knock-kneed (when knees touch), and suffered a back fracture last year. She was in and out of crutches and a wheelchair for five years.

“It affected my entire body,” she said. “Advil was my best friend.”

Just months into her freshman year at Tumwater, just walking from class to class was causing unbearable pain. After the 2013 fall semester, Campbell decided to withdraw from school and take online classes.

First-year Tumwater golf coach Todd Caffey, also a counselor at the school, remembers a sit-down meeting with the teen and her family to discuss her educational options. Campbell, though, was the one standing.

“I felt so bad,” Caffey said. “She couldn’t even sit down.”

The decision to undergo hip-replacement surgery in February of 2014 had changed everything for Campbell. She’s back to being a full-time student at Tumwater and she’s picking up golf at a fast pace, Caffey said.

During the T-Birds’ season-opening 89-52 win over Montesano on March 31, she gave the team 15 points in the Stableford scoring system, third-highest point total on the day.

“She’s rocked it,” Caffey said. “She’s doing really, really well.”

Golf doesn’t do as much wear-and-tear as the sport she still has a burning passion for: volleyball. She stays involved by helping coach volleyball at Tumwater’s Bush Middle School.

While she’s accepted her volleyball playing days are over, she’s now big on golf, a sport she once thought was boring.

“It was a long road,” Campbell said, “and it was really painful. This is the first year I’ve had no pain. … I’m 100 percent good.”