John Sarcona was diagnosed at the age of 5 with what would become a severe case of kyphoscoliosis -- a combination of kyphosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine, and scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine, reported ABC News.
As Sarcona grew, is conditioned worsened. He underwent multiple surgeries, had metal rods inserted into his back and wore a plastic brace every day that inhibited his motion.
"It was hard for the fact that he loved sports," John Sarcona's mother, Joanna Sarcona, told ABC News. "As he was getting older, not fitting in was really starting to take a toll on him."
In 2016, at the age of 17, he was admitted to NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City for scoliosis so severe that doctors said it was "bending by the hour" and was life-threatening. He would need surgery immediately.
"His spine was collapsing," Dr. Lawrence Lenke, of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, said. "His chin was heading towards his chest and his whole upper spine was collapsing onto his heart and lungs."
In November 2016, Sarcona underwent spinal reconstructive surgery with a device known as a "halo traction" that helped to slowly stretch out his spine. The teen noticed improvement during his five weeks of recovery.
"People say their first steps afterward almost feel like you're in a new body and your legs will feel different," Sarcona said. "It was such a unique feeling, like my center of gravity had changed. I felt so much straighter sitting up on my bed for the first time.”
Sarcona's recovery has been remarkable. A year after his surgery, he went to his senior prom and graduated high school. Today he stands 7 inches taller, regularly plays golf and attends classes at Nassau Community College on Long Island.
While Sarcona isn't completely sure what he wants to do when he graduates, he told CNN he's considering becoming a doctor.
"Since I was helped as a child, I want to help children as they're growing up and dealing with their own situations," he said.
Having endured so much, Sarcona is optimistic for the future.
"I feel a sense of freedom, knowing that there's not a date over my head for when the next surgery is," he said.