Bear River student seeks to support Shriners Hospital after ‘remarkable’ care
HOW TO HELP
WHAT: FOX40 television will be broadcasting the “Show Them Love” telethon from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday to benefit Shriners Hospitals for Children — Northern California.
WHO: At 5:30 p.m., Bear River High School freshman Emily Bucher will be performing a solo dance on air and in the hospital lobby. The moving choreographed piece tells the story of Emily’s life-long challenges with her knees and the treatment she received at Shriners that got her dancing again.
ONLINE: The telethon can be viewed online at https://fox40.com.
DONATE: To make a donation to Shriners Hospitals for Children, visit https://Donate.LoveToTheRescue.org.
In October of 2003, Traci and Jake Bucher welcomed their second child — a beautiful, healthy baby girl named Emily. But when she was 10 days old, her father noticed a clicking sound in her knee while changing her diaper.
They mentioned it to the pediatrician at Emily’s two-week “well baby” check-up, but the doctor didn’t seem overly concerned.
“But keep an eye on it,” he said. “See if anything changes.”
Emily went on to hit all of her developmental benchmarks when it came to sitting up, crawling and walking. But the clicking sound remained. Then, about the time she hit 18 months, it was clear something was wrong.
“She’d be walking and her knee would suddenly give out — sometimes after bending her knee it looked like it would almost dislocate, you could see it,” said Traci. “Looking back, she was a pretty grumpy baby. We realize now she was probably in pain all along.”
‘Something was wrong’
A visit back to the pediatrician resulted in a referral to an orthopedic surgeon, who requested X-rays prior to an evaluation. After weeks of delays, the Buchers got a call from the surgeon.
“I don’t need to see your daughter,” he said. “Everything looks perfect.”
“I was insistent,” said Traci. “I just knew something was wrong.”
But after countless doctor visits, referrals, MRIs, CAT scans and X-rays, the Buchers still weren’t getting any real answers. Then, one day, when Emily was 2 and a half, she suddenly grabbed her right knee, screaming due to the pain. Traci took her daughter straight to the emergency room, hoping a fresh set of eyes would prove something was wrong.
As it turned out, there was.
Emily was referred to UC Davis Children’s Hospital, where she was diagnosed with a “discoid meniscus,” which is an abnormally shaped meniscus within the knee joint. The meniscus is a wedge of cartilage that helps support and cushion the knee joint. The condition would require surgery, and fortunately it went well.
“Everything went fine,” said Traci. “We were so relieved — until the other knee started acting up when she was about 4 and a half. So, she went back in for a second surgery.”
But this time everything wasn’t fine. Emily’s right knee again began to give out and she was still in pain despite extensive physical therapy. When she was 6, she went back in for a third surgery, then a fourth at age 9. Nothing was working.
“I’ve always loved to dance,” said Emily. “It was so hard seeing other kids doing things I couldn’t.”
A fresh perspective
At age 10, the Buchers took Emily from their Grass Valley home to the Stanford School of Medicine for a fresh medical perspective.
“The doctor looked at all of Emily’s records and said there was nothing wrong with her,” said Traci. “He said she must have a low tolerance for pain. We almost started to believe it too, thinking she just needed to toughen up. But in the back of my mind I knew the pain was real and worse than people thought it was.”
After much insistence, a second MRI at Stanford revealed a small tear in the fat pad under Emily’s right knee cap. At age 11, a fifth surgery was scheduled.
“It didn’t work — it was the worst thing,” said Traci. “There were countless tears and feelings of hopelessness.”
In fact, Emily experienced so much pain in her right knee that she was home schooled throughout the eighth grade, which naturally took a physical and emotional toll. While most of her friends began to go on with their own lives, her closest friend, Ana Hamilton, was always there. The friendship gave her something to hold on to on the days she would start to lose hope, she said.
“During that time Ana was one of my only friends,” said Emily. “Some kids thought I was faking an injury. Ana was a true friend who always stuck by me and never questioned the pain I was in.”
Then, one day, in a quirky twist of fate, Traci was watching an episode of “General Hospital” on TV. The story line included a boy who was badly burned and referred to Shriners Hospitals for Children, where children are treated regardless of the patients’ ability to pay.
“I didn’t really know anything about Shriners, but I was desperate,” said Traci. “So I picked up the phone and called. I was crying and the nurse could hear my desperation after telling her our story. She told me, ‘You’re in the last place you’ll ever be. Dr. Haus will be the one to fix your daughter.’”
At age 14, in May of 2018, Emily went in for her sixth surgery after the Shriners surgeon discovered she had no meniscus at all in the front of her right knee, a completely new diagnosis. During the four hour surgery, the surgeon was able to bring some of the meniscus from the back of the knee to the front, giving the knee full coverage.
Remarkably, it worked.
Emily was on bed rest for two weeks, then on crutches for nine. At the six month mark Emily took up dance again, which had been a lifelong passion, despite her physical set backs. Now a freshman at Bear River High School, Emily is back among her peers, busy with typical high school life and dancing contemporary, jazz and ballet two hours a day at Studio 65 in Rocklin.
“We are beyond grateful to Shriners Hospital — they listened to me and had a physician that was invested enough in a kid’s life to take a chance when every other doctor told us nothing was wrong,” said Traci. “Other doctors just didn’t know — he took the initiative to look with his own eyes to see what was going on.”
Eager to give back, the Buchers are now helping to raise funds and spread the word about the remarkable treatment Emily received at Shriners Hospital for Children in Sacramento, as well as the nonprofit’s mission to treat children regardless of a family’s ability to pay.
On Monday, Emily and her family were interviewed for an hour on KNCO radio, where they told their story. On Wednesday, Fox 40 television will host the “Show Them Love” telethon, benefiting Shriners Hospitals for Children — Northern California. The event will take place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the hospital lobby, which will be transformed into a television set. News anchors will be on hand to interview patients, parents, doctors and volunteers. Among those will be Emily, who will dance at 5:30 p.m. Her solo performance, choreographed by her dance teacher Jayden Russell, will tell the story of her love for dance while facing lifelong challenges with her knees.
The telethon is inspired by the rock band Foreigner, which donated their 1984 hit song, “I Want to Know What Love Is” to Shriners Hospitals for Children. All proceeds from the song, music video and greatest hits live CD downloads benefit Shriners Hospitals for Children. One of the band’s best-known hits, the song is listed as one of Rolling Stone Magazine’s greatest songs of all time.
“I think it’s amazing that you don’t need money or insurance to get treated at Shriners,” said Emily. “Money is never an issue. We were lucky — we had insurance, but so many don’t. I want to give back and help people in need. I’d still be in pain if not for them. Now I want to pursue a career in dance.”
The entire family will attend Wednesday’s telethon to help raise funds and watch Emily perform —including two grandmothers and Emily’s brother Chad, whom Emily fondly named “Jeebs the Butler” during the time she was bedridden. A senior at Bear River, Chad will be entering the Sierra College Fire Academy in the fall.
“It’s such a relief to finally have closure after all these years, and all these issues since she was 2 years old,” said Jake, Emily’s father. “Now she can resume her passion. It’s wonderful to see her back in school, surrounded by friends. But mostly, I just love watching her dance.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User