Cailey Scott doesn't feel the pain anymore.
The Mitchell Aquatic Club senior swimmer was born with a rare congenital hip disorder that forced her to stop competing. After a series of consultations, surgeries and physical therapy sessions through almost two years, Scott is pain free and back to 100 percent in the pool.
"It's crazy to look back at all that, especially when I don't have any pain anymore," Scott said. "It's like 'Wow, this is just a reminder of how much I have been through.' "
She's definitely been through plenty. While running cross-country, Scott noticed a sharp pain in her right hip and knee. The pain intensified and it forced her to have surgery in April 2016.
"I continued on with physical therapy for a couple more months and because of the surgery, I was even more weak to start," Scott said. "So I had an ugly limp. I was pretty much miserable walking up our driveaway."
What followed was more visits with doctors in Chicago and New York City. She was diagnosed with miserable malalignment, femoral anteversion, and tibial torsion in March 2017. Dr. Robert Buly of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City knew the diagnosis right away, saying it was his 82nd case and Scott was the second-youngest patient to undergo the surgery.
In June 2017, she underwent an osteotomy of the femur and tibia with Buly. Eight screws and two titanium rods that measured at least a foot long each were placed inside her leg during the procedure.
"Basically they cut my femur, twisted it, put a rod through it to adjust the angle and they did the same to my tibia," Scott said. "Because when they adjusted my femur, my toe was pointed way in."
Post-surgery, she was on bed rest for two weeks and couldn't put weight on her leg for two months, unable to even lift her leg. She performed some light physical therapy in the pool, but it wasn't the same as competing.
"That was heartbreaking," she said. "I had worked so hard. I was thinking about everything that I thought when I won (her first state title) when I was 13. That excitement almost completely disappeared. For a while that pain was my reality. I thought I would never get over that hump in my life."
She leaned on her parents-Tehra and Chris Scott-for support. She said teammates, rival swimmers and coaches were there during that difficult time in her life. She singled out fellow seniors-Jakob Studer, Ethan Huber, Jay Paulson and Dani Norden-for pushing her through that phase of her life.
"They stuck with me," Scott said. "We (MAC) are family. That's what we are. It was just a good mental outlet having all of them."
The rods and screws were in her leg for nine months, but she did compete at the state swim meet in March 2018. She won the mile freestyle with the metal pieces still in her leg, but she wasn't at her peak.
"That was really emotionally hard because I wasn't at the level I wanted to be at and I was still in pain," Scott said. "I had gone through so much that I had a surgery and I was still in pain. It really was just pain from the surgery. It wasn't pain from the congenital hip disorder I had. It was just nerve-racking and just coming back was a difficult road, but at the same time, I don't regret it at all."
Shortly after the state meet, the rods and pins were removed from Scott's leg in New York. She has 13 post-surgery scars up and down her right leg.
But more importantly, she's back to 100 percent and said she's even performing better than she did pre-surgery. Scott will compete at the Four Corners Sectionals this Thursday through Sunday in Phoenix, Arizona. She recently won three state championships in the 1,650-yard freestyle, 100-yard backstroke and the 200-yard backstroke, upping her total number of state championships to 23.
Scott hopes her legacy at the Mitchell Aquatic Club isn't about state titles or records, but rather a shining example of how to persevere when faced with adversity.
"I just want to teach all the little kids how to have courage and how to be brave, even when you are in pain," she said. "How to be humble, yet confident. How to show grace and sportsmanship through whatever adversity you are facing."
Scott, who is a 4.0 student, is leaning toward attending Augustana University for pre-med and to swim for the Vikings.