By Charlotte Smith
Overcoming odds is something Alyssa Bell, a West Bladen High School student and athlete displays well in every aspect of her life. One challenge she has dealt with in her 16 years of living is battling Scoliosis.
Scoliosis occurs most often during a growth spurt just before puberty. The condition may cause spine deformities to develop and the longer they go undetected the more severe the case can become. Severe scoliosis can be painful and disabling, according to the Mayo Clinic.
June is National Scoliosis Awareness Month. The awareness goal is to educate about early detection and network to unite scoliosis patients, families, physicians, clinicians, institutions and businesses for partnerships.
Alyssa has been Bladen County’s poster child for the condition and how to over come its hardships. She was born the premature daughter of Scott and Mary Bell, but even back then she had a fighting spirit according to her parents. Little did the family know, Alyssa’s health issues were not over.
In 2017, during a routine health screening at her school, Alyssa found out she had scoliosis. Alyssa being diagnosed in tenth grade with the spinal deformity was a shock to the Bell family.
Scoliosis affects about three percent of the population in the United States according to the Mayo Clinic. Diagnosing scoliosis in its early stages is important for treatment options according to specialists in the field. Sometimes bracing the spine may prevent the need for surgery, however, in Alyssa’s case, surgery was necessary, according to her mother, Mary.
In August of 2017, Alyssa underwent surgery on her spine. Two rods and some bolts were inserted into her back to help the curvature caused by scoliosis, Alyssa said.
Before her surgery Alyssa was a competitive athlete in cheerleading and tennis. She was also an active member of the Beta, Hosa, ECCLA, FCA, and the National Honor Society clubs. In addition to the clubs and sports Alyssa held positions as a beauty queen, a choir member and was active in her church’s youth group.
After her surgery, Alyssa came back even stronger many say.
“Alyssa is an example of resilience and determination for her fellow students. We have seen her courage and stamina increase in all areas of her life since the surgery.” West Bladen High School Principal, Mrs. Peggy Hester said.
“There was never a doubt that she would do great things, and this experience has shown that she will not be deterred from whatever path she chooses,” Mrs. Hester continued.
Alyssa not only continued in most of the clubs and sports she had participated in before the scoliosis diagnosis, but now she is doing even more.
In October of 2018, Alyssa with her tennis partner, Autumn Brisson won the Three Rivers Conference tennis doubles championship. This year Alyssa was undefeated in tennis and won Most Improved Player in the sport.
Alyssa did give up cheerleading and has put on her running shoes. This spring, she was selected as Three Rivers Conference Honors and was awarded Best Runner for Women’s Track.
The title of Miss North Carolina Queen of Hope also hangs around Alyssa’s neck this year. The state pageant win comes with a scholarship as well.
Michelle Fisher, Director of the NCQOH Pageant, said, “Alyssa is one of the most focused and determined young women I’ve met. She sets goals and works hard to meet them.”
Fisher continued, “She has accomplished so much already. With her kind spirit and determination to succeed, I know her future is bright and she will continue to impact the community for good; she’s quite special.”
Many agree Alyssa has a servant’s heart and sets a great example for those around her.
Pastor Jason Lee and his wife, Krista Lee spoke highly of Alyssa, who not only participates in youth group at Dublin First Baptist Church, but is a leader to many.
She spends her weekends serving others, the couple said.
“She has a big heart,” Krista continued, “She has the confidence to lead and follow. She doesn’t have to be in a group to do things.”
Ambitious and adventurous are two words the couple used to describe Alyssa. They recounted the mission work Alyssa volunteered for over the summer and her willingness to always show up to help.
“One thing I love about Alyssa is that beyond her busy schedule, she remains Christ focused and lives with Him at the center of everything she does,” Fisher added.
Alyssa is also a dual enrollment student at Bladen Community College. She was recently inducted into the English Honor Society of Sigma Kappa Delta and has been selected to participate in the Semper Fidelis All-American Program.
“With everything she has been through, she is truly an inspiration as she excels in school and community. This young lady is impacting lives all around her,” Fisher said.
Alyssa explained the outlook she keeps on life, “Push through and persevere because it will get better.”
The Bell family is big supporters of scoliosis awareness and bring awareness to the condition all throughout the year.
Some ways you can support the awareness month are below.
- Talk about scoliosis on social media, change your profile photo frame showing support.
- Ask every state, district and commonwealth to officially declare by proclamation their observance of National Scoliosis Awareness Month during the month of June. You may find a sample letter on srs.org.
- Promote screenings in schools and with health care providers.