Carmel Valley student uses music to overcome joint condition

By Kristina Houck

Hayley Jones started performing on stage when she was just 3 years old. But music was put on the back burner, as the Carmel Valley girl got older and busier with dance, soccer and martial arts.

The 10-year-old recently turned to music again, after being diagnosed in October with osteochondritis dissecans, a joint condition in which a small segment of bone begins to separate from its surrounding region due to a lack of blood supply. Due to the condition, the bone and the cartilage covering it begin to crack and loosen, causing pain and swelling.

“I think music has helped me so much,” said Hayley, a fourth grader at Solana Highlands Elementary School. “Singing, for me, is really fun.”

Most common in children, the condition is often brought on by sports or physical activity.

Hayley began experiencing pain in both her ankles last summer. After her diagnosis, she had to immediately quit her ballet and jazz lessons. She could no longer play in her soccer league. And Hayley, an orange belt with a white stripe, had to stop her martial arts training.

“All week long she did activities. She was never home,” said her mother, Geri Jones. “It got really sad and depressing. It was a hard year for her.”

In January, Hayley underwent arthroscopy, a minimally invasive surgical procedure on her right ankle. She had a cast for more than a month and used crutches for about four months. She still wears braces on both ankles and needs surgery on her left ankle.

Inspired by her mother, a former professional dancer and singer, as well as her own background on the stage, Hayley returned to music. She began practicing the piano in her room and singing every day.

Still competitive in nature, she decided to audition to sing the national anthem during Field Day on June 11, the day before the last day of school. After practicing before and after school every day for two months, Hayley auditioned against dozens of other fourth graders. She won.

“It’s exciting I got picked. It’s an amazing feeling,” said Hayley the afternoon before her big performance. “But it’s also a little scary. It’s in front of a ton of people and I don’t want to mess up.

“The whole school is on the field for different games and obstacles. It’s really fun,” she added. “They always have a fourth grader sing the national anthem right before all the games begin. It’s a big honor.”

Hayley, who will be a fifth grader at Solana Pacific in the fall, is still facing surgery on her left ankle. She will soon visit the doctor to learn how well her right ankle has healed. Her mother is uncertain when her daughter will be able to return to the dance mat and the soccer field.

“I’ve seen her go through so much this year,” said Jones, an instructor with Encinitas-based California Music Studios. “I’m just so proud of her.”

Although surgery and recovery have been difficult at times for Hayley, she said music has given her strength to overcome her situation. She encouraged others going through similar struggles to find new — or return to old — passions.

“It’s not fun at all. Honestly, it’s miserable if you adore sports and being outside,” she said. “But try and find a way around it. Try and find more things you love. There’s always something that’s around the corner.”