A spinal birth defect forced a local woman to leave behind her studies, work and regular activities.  

Collette Washbrook has lived in Fort Saskatchewan her whole life. At 15 years old, Washbrook was at a provincial race for track and field in Calgary when she first felt a terrible pain in her lower spine. 

“It was the worst pain I have ever felt. I can’t even describe it. All I remember was my body was just shaking, and everything hurt,” explained Washbrook. 

Doctors spent years completing tests until they eventually discovered a slight twist in her lower spine that led to four fractures. 

“I did a lot of physio when we discovered what was going on with my back. Eventually, over time I did get worse and worse.”

Washbrook worked at a hardware store in Sherwood Park on light duties until one day, the discomfort became too much to bear. At 19 years old, she had to leave MacEwan University, which she was attending for a Bachelor of Science, for the same reason.

Washbook described her pain as constant and said she spends most of her days in bed lying flat, trying to mitigate the issue. 

“It has been a mental roller-coaster over time—the past ten years of anxiety and stress. For a while, I did not know, am I going to get better? Am I not? It’s a very scary feeling.”

Earlier this year, the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton gave Washbrook the unfortunate news that her spinal surgery would be cancelled indefinitely. 

“They are very short-staffed. Nobody is going to be getting their surgeries.” 

Now 24 years old, Washbrook is looking at getting a private surgery done in Vancouver with a price tag of nearly $30,000. In order to raise money and keep people in the loop about her situation, Washbrook and her family began a GoFundMe page

Each week, along with her brother Brandon Wheeler, they do a game-a-thon for people to watch and connect with her about her situation.

“Every Monday, we post the link to that on my GoFundMe with a time.”

Washbrook is hopeful for the future. She is engaged and hopes to return to school one day at Athabasca University to become a nutritionist. 

“This story is not just my story. There are so many other people who are waiting these very lengthy wait times for their surgeries.” 

Her GoFundMe page is currently at $6,800 of her $30,000 goal.