The 16-year-old Rossmoyne Senior High School student said she was playing state netball and volleyball when she started having intense pain in her back in November 2010.
‘The doctor couldn’t work out what was wrong. They thought it was growing pain or bad posture,’ Stephanie said.
She eventually got a diagnosis in January 2012 that showed she had an extra bone in her lower spine. The bone did not show up in an X-ray examination and was only discovered after an MRI scan.
Stephanie went to a neurosurgeon who said surgery was the only option to get rid of the pain.
She had surgery in April last year to cut out the bone and shave a vertebrae in her spine.
Stephanie’s mother Kylie Christie said it was the first time the surgeon had done the operation and she was the third patient in 30 years to have the condition.
‘The main risk during the surgery was the chance of her having drop-foot (limp),’ Mrs Christie said.
‘It was not near the spinal cord so she wasn’t at great risk.’
Stephanie said it was hard knowing her friends were out playing sport while she was stuck at home.
‘Sport is such a big part of my life and it left me with nothing,’ she said.
Stephanie took up umpiring aged 14 before her back pain started. And since she has been selected to umpire national competitions for both netball and volleyball.
She officiated at the School Sport Volleyball Championships in Brisbane last month and became the first person from WA to win the Student Referee of Championships award.
‘It was so much fun: it was the best experience I have had. It was great to experience a State tournament at that level and to bond and learn from the other umpires,’ she said.
Stephanie said she wanted to study sports science and physiotherapy or become an English teacher.
‘I get English and I had a really inspiring English teacher,’ she said.
‘Lots of people struggle with it, and in an area such as Rossmoyne it is often not people’s first language.’