Rare leg injury inspires Nevada County student to make a difference | TheUnion.com

Rare leg injury inspires Nevada County student to make a difference

Olivia Scinto, a Bear River High School senior, has decided on a career in medicine.
John Hart/jhart@theunion.com | The Union

At a family Christmas party, Olivia Scinto remembers falling down after feeling a weird tweak in her right knee.

“We went to the emergency room because I had a huge lump on the side of my leg,” Scinto said. “It ended up being a really rare injury, so when the doctor looked at the X-ray, he didn’t see it or know what it was.”

The emergency room doctor told Scinto that the swelling in her knee was from a torn meniscus and that she should stay off of it for a while. But during a follow-up visit with her regular doctor, a month later, Scinto found out her knee was fractured and out of place.

The scar tissue accumulated in her knee from the emergency doctor’s misdiagnosis made it impossible for Scinto’s knee to be popped back into place.

“So he sent me to UC Davis to see a sports medicine doctor,” Scinto said. “That doctor said to wait a year, because he said from what he’s seen in the past, surgeries didn’t help this type of injury. So I waited a year and it was still really painful.”

Three years and several surgeries later, Scinto, 17, cannot do physical activities that force her to move laterally. The injury has caused parts of Scinto’s knee to disconnect from its ligaments, and doctors have placed a pin in the knee to replace cartilage and bone fragments they took out due to scarring and joint damage.

To stay active, Scinto opts now to run on the sprint team at Bear River High School where she will be a senior this coming fall.

The experience has inspired Scinto to dedicate her life, and future career, to working in the emergency medical field.

“It really irritated me that I had to go through that, and I don’t want anyone else to go through something like that,” Scinto said.

“And I really enjoy helping people, so I felt medicine would be a perfect career with my desire to make sure people aren’t misdiagnosed like I was, and helping people and reaching out to them.”

Scinto is wasting no time in her crusade to become a doctor, as she volunteers at the Auburn Faith Hospital helping patients recover from injuries.

In her free time, Scinto also enjoys going with her youth group to San Diego to help inner city youth.

“We go to this Christian camp and bring kids from Fresno and Sacramento and other inner city kids that don’t really leave their house, and we bring them up to Auburn and we take them camping,” Scinto said.

“We teach them how to swim and fish, and they all love it. I just have a lot of fun bonding with them.”

Scinto’s father says his daughter’s desire to become a doctor fits well with the type of person she is.

“She loves the opportunity to help others, and is a very compassionate young lady, and always eager to help people,” David Scinto said.

“I’m very proud of her for wanting to make a difference, I think it’s pretty noble. She’s pretty much decided on it, and is very driven to take the initiative to get there.”

This past week, Scinto attended the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine, a nine-day program giving outstanding high school students from across the nation a framework to develop and explore their medical career interests through the introduction of emerging issues in public health, medical ethics, research and general practice.

“The program provides an important behind-the-scenes perspective on medical careers,” Dean of Academic Affairs for National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine Marguerite Regan said. “This is a critical time for high school students to begin exploring their career paths, just prior to immersing themselves in college coursework and creating a pathway to future success.”

The forum is held in 13 different cities around the nation, and Scinto attended the session at the University of California, Berkeley. Many of the students who attend the conference are nominated by teachers and guidance counselors based on their demonstrated academic excellence, leadership potential and interest in medicine.

“It was really cool to talk to doctors firsthand, on a more personal level,” Scinto said. “It was nice for all the girls talking to all the female doctors, and knowing how it is going through the schooling to become a doctor. It was really cool to see female doctors, just to know that as a girl, it is something that is possible.”

Students conducted site visits to top medical schools and clinical facilities, and were tested on their knowledge as they treated injured patients in a mass casualty simulation.

Scinto said that getting to see the hectic atmosphere of a hospital gave her some hands-on experience that she will take with her in her pursuit to become a doctor.

“I want to do emergency medicine because I like the excitement,” Scinto said. “And I just feel like in emergency medicine people come in hurt, and emergency doctors are the first ones they see.

“So if I can stop the misdiagnosis there, then they won’t have to go through all of the steps that I had to go through and they won’t be in pain, because I’m going to be in pain for the rest of my life, and I want to prevent people from having to experience that.”

For more information on the forum, go to http://www.envisionexperience.com/Medicine.

To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email inatividad@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.

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