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Lauryn Goates is Titanium Girl
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I'm reading
Lauryn Goates is Titanium Girl
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
Lauryn Goates is Titanium Girl
Pass it on
Pass it on
Conversations
3 December 2014

Lauryn Goates is Titanium Girl

Photography by Amandine Thomas

Steph on Lauryn...

She’s my best friend, the bane of my existence, my inspiration and the bravest person I know. She’s annoying, stubborn, courageous, funny, thoughtful and awesome. She has blue eyes, a brown mop of stylish hair, a thin frame (despite her tendency to overindulge in gummy bears) and a friendly smile for anyone who shares the same passions as her. Her name is Lauryn Goates and I know no-one stronger.

The only active part of Lauryn is her imagination. The rest of her is a couch potato with a weird obsession with chocolate. Of course, this may be due to the fact that she has two metal rods next to her spine and is therefore in constant pain.

Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people. Dumbo Feather is a magazine about these people.

This conversation is the winner of Dumbo Feather’s New Conversations competition—a search for the next generation of storytellers. Assistant Editor Nathan Scolaro says of the winner: “This is such a colourful conversation that really captures the spirit of Lauryn and Stephanie’s friendship. We love the banter between the girls and the compassion Stephanie shows her friend as she invites her to open up about some challenging times. Plus, how great is that illustration!? Go Titanium Girl!”

STEPH: Are you sure you’re human?

LAURYN: Yes. I do have hopes though that the titanium in my back will turn me into some sort of bionic person. And then I’ll join the X-Men, ‘cause that would be really cool.

[Sarcastically]. Right. You could be Titanium Girl. So how did you get titanium in your back in the first place?

Well, I have scoliosis, which I was diagnosed with when I was about 10. I had to have an operation—a procedure called “spinal fusion”—where they cut your back open, put titanium rods next to your spine and then pins in between the vertebrae, and that keeps it straight.

Wow. That sounds painful.

It is! It really hurts! Actually, one of the medications they gave me has something which affects my memory, and they give it to you because the first few days are so awful it’s considered horrible to remember them.

So, do you remember the operation?

The first few days I only remember bits. After that I remember it pretty well. I think the first thing I remember is being in recovery. It really hurt and I remember being kind of scared because my mum kept talking to the nurses about low blood pressure, saying, “What are you going to do to fix it.” She sounded kind of scared. And then I remember I couldn’t breathe properly, so they had to put me on oxygen.

Again, that sounds painful.

It wasn’t really painful, but the thing in my nose was kind of itchy. I think the next thing I remember is about the third or fourth day I was in hospital. There were these volunteers that came around and they gave me a little quilt and a cat, which I named Hazel Grace.

Oh that’s cute. [Suddenly shocked]. Wait, you got a free cat?

[Laughing]. No! A stuffed cat!

Lauryn and Steph

Lauryn and Steph

[Embarrassed]. Oh, right. Was there anything else that happened in the hospital?

Yeah, actually. It was my birthday.

Right after the operation?

Yeah. It wasn’t all bad, though: the nurses sang me “Happy Birthday” and— this was one of the best things that happened to me— there was a little four-year-old girl a room down from me, her name was Aimee and she had infected burns over about two thirds of her body. Apparently she’d heard the nurses singing “Happy Birthday” to me.

She asked one of the nurses to get her into her wheelchair. She made me a birthday card and asked to be wheeled down to my room so she could say happy birthday.

It’s nice that you’ve got some good memories, mixed in with the difficult ones.

[Smiling]. Yeah.

So what happened when you went home?

I stayed at my mum’s house for a week, because she’s a nurse and she knew how to look after me properly. The first week was the week of a drama class performance, which was amazing and horrible at the same time. I remember forcing my mum to take me to school that morning so that I could do a rehearsal which I immediately regretted because I threw up, right before my scene.

[Grimacing sympathetically]. Yeah, I was there.

Yeah, well, I went back on stage and rehearsed and everything.

This girl is daring almost to the point of idiocy.

And then when I got home, Mum made me lie down. I couldn’t eat normally—I was supposed to be eating normally but I just couldn’t—I never felt hungry. When I was in hospital, I couldn’t eat because I threw up every time I ate. That was the result of the same medication that affected my memory which, as it turned out, I was having all the negative side effects of: blurred vision, double vision, headaches. One of the side effects is seizures, and is it just me or is it a little strange to put someone with a history of seizures on a medication that might cause seizures?

Yeah, it is. So, you have a history of seizures?

Yeah. Last year I had three seizures. The first one was in my Granny’s house. I was downstairs playing Scrabble with my little sister and the next thing I knew I was in an ambulance. They told me I’d had a seizure, and I was confused, and everything hurt, and I didn’t feel like I could move, and I was talking to one of the paramedics about Mean Girls and The Big Bang Theory and Harry Potter.

And then you had two more?

Yeah, I remember one incident where it was the same paramedic that got me after my first seizure and I desperately wanted to say, “We really need to stop meeting like this,” but I couldn’t because, well, my brain wasn’t working properly.

Did I mention she’s a bit eccentric?

Is there anything else that’s happened in your life?

[Raises an eyebrow]. A lot of things have happened in my life, Steph.

[Laughs, cheeks flushing]. Yes, um, any other major things? Before the seizures and the back operation, when you were in primary school, you had glandular fever, right?

Yeah, that wasn’t very nice at all. I started getting really bad headaches and I was tired all the time and sick a lot. And I missed out on an excursion to the Titanic exhibition—I’m hoping that comes back to Melbourne some time so that I can go. So anyway, Mum took me to her work, which at the time was at a doctor’s office, and she got the doctor to check up on me and give me a blood test, which I absolutely hate. And then Mum made them put it up to “urgent” level so I could get the results as soon as possible.

Your mum sounds like a very protective woman. Do you think maybe you got a bit of her personality?

Yeah. I’m pretty protective of the people I care about. Anyway, we got the results of the blood tests back a couple of days later. She called me, because at the time my parents had just divorced, so that was a pretty bad experience, as well, actually.

It always is.

So she called me up, told me what it was, and I was like, “Am I gonna die?” She just said, “No, you’re not going to die, it’s just something really awful.” So after that, I couldn’t get through a full week of school without having to go home. I was just tired all the time and it was horrible.

Wow. Sounds like you’ve had some challenges in your life.

No, I wouldn’t say so. People have had it worse than me. There are some people who don’t have anything to eat.

Dauntless, eccentric, brave and food-crazy. There’s Lauryn in four words.

How great are these two?

How great are these two?

So, do you believe that hunger and famine are the most serious problems in this world?

It’s just that there are people out there who have had a much more difficult life than me—they have more important problems than me—I’m not going to be gunned down by policemen, for example.

Would your view of the world be more positive or negative?

The world can sometimes seem like a horrible place, you’ve got to admit. But there are good things too.

You should be looking for the good things in life. You may never find them, but you should still try.

[Smiling]. That’s beautiful and true. What is your vision for the future?

I kind of want the future to be like Star Trek, where everyone is equal. [Grinning]. And there are starships.

If you could choose what legacy to leave when you die, what would it be?

I don’t know! Anything I say is going to sound incredibly cheesy and ridiculous. [Pause]. I guess I want people to remember me as me, you know? I don’t want to be remembered as someone I’m not.

If you had a chance to talk or advise future generations, what would you say?

Look after the world, work hard, train with Starfleet, don’t talk to strangers and be happy.

All I can say is that you’re the bravest, most courageous, awesome, girl that I know. I’m sure that our classmates who have heard your story are really inspired by you and your determination. I know I am. Even though you’ve been through so much pain and have had so many hardl things happen to you, you’ve stayed strong and been a positive and funny friend. I am so proud of you, and I want you to know that I love you. Thank you for being my friend.

[Blushing fiercely but smiling]. Oh, shut up.

"Titanium Girl" by Stephanie Powell

"Titanium Girl" by Stephanie Powell

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