ST. CLAIR — On the surface, she looks like any other 11-year-old.
But there is much more to McKenna Owens than meets the eye. There is a toughness within her that has been forged through trials and a resiliency that has been derived from overcoming tremendous odds.
Owens has a rare condition called Osteogenesis Imperfecta, which is known more commonly as brittle bone disease. It was discovered when she was two months old, and in the time since, she has suffered 27 bone fractures and undergone 13 surgeries.
When doctors first became aware that something was irregular with McKenna, they said she likely wouldn’t survive. But Owens is doing much more than surviving. She is thriving as a swimmer on the Blue Water Swim Club, which is based out of St. Clair.
“McKenna has to be very cognizant of her surroundings,” her mother Laurie Owens said. “It’s the smallest things that can cause her to have a fracture. If she falls, there have been times where nothing occurs or other times that a slight tumble causes a fracture. Some fractures are also sporadic.
“She experienced a fracture (last summer) in her lower right tibia just from walking.”
Despite the obstacles she has faced, McKenna has still been able to progress as a swimmer. She has swum for three years in the Blue Water Swim Club and continues to serve as an inspiration to everyone she comes in contact with.
“I like swimming because it gets me out of my wheelchair,” said McKenna, who is a sixth grader at St. Clair Middle School. “I can do whatever I want (in the water). I think it’s kind of easy, but there are parts about swimming that were hard. Some of the kicks and arm strokes were uncomfortable.
“My goal is to one day do a normal swim meet. I want to get off the blocks and do the right strokes and everything, just like the normal kids do. I think swimming encourages me. Sometimes I see the older groups that are in higher levels working on things and I think it’s cool. It makes me want to work harder to get into that group.”