Alyssa Champion

Now that Alyssa Champion mapped out her promising future, much of it depends on Dr. Chris Reilly heading to the golf course, enjoying his retirement.

If all goes according to plan, Alyssa Champion, who lives with congenital scoliosis, will be taking over the orthopedic department at BC Children’s Hospital.

She told this much to Dr. Reilly, the head of orthopedics department who has treated Alyssa most of her 13 years. Move over: Dr. Alyssa Champion is ready to care and treat kids with scoliosis and other orthopedic issues.

 “She said to me, ‘I want to take Dr. Reilly’s place,” Brenda Champion, Alyssa’s mother, recalls with a laugh.

Of course, Alyssa will have to carve out some time in her busy medical schedule to pursue her love of ballet—a passion she’s fostered for many years through the Langley Dance Academy. Watching her move, mom Brenda says, no one would ever guess Alyssa has struggled with scoliosis.

Indeed, Alyssa’s teen years are defined by great movement, freedom and ambition. But every one of those traits has been earned after years of struggle.

 “If there’s a way for her to do something, she’s going to do it,” says Brenda. “Because she’s dealt with it from a fairly early age, her pain threshold is huge

Alyssa was born on Nov. 30, 2001, two months early; she weighed about three pounds.

Just before Alyssa’s first birthday, her mother noticed that her daughter’s shoulder blades were not level with the other. A diagnosis of congenital scoliosis and rib fusion quickly followed.

Eventually, the bubbly little girl underwent surgery to install VEPTR (Vertical Expandable Prosthetic Titanium Rib) rods, telescoping rods that attach to a child’s ribs, spine or pelvis, to straighten the child’s spine as she grows. Alyssa returns to BC Children’s Hospital Foundation for a surgical extension of the rods every six to eight months.

In the meantime, it hasn’t been easy. She has endured an infection that required surgery and stalled recovery; and over the span of her young life she’s gone through 20 operations.  Just this year, she was prepared for her final operation, only to learn a part of the device had broken, stalling surgery yet again.

Despite frustrations and setbacks, Alyssa keeps busy with the job of being Alyssa. She dances and plays volleyball and basketball, and when the business of scoliosis must be tended to, her active lifestyle plays a huge role in getting her back on her feet.

“After her operation, everyone was astonished [at the speed of her recovered mobility], says Brenda.  She works hard to get in shape before her operations, to allow post-op recovery to be a bit easier.

“She’ll have surgery on a Saturday and then go home on a Tuesday. She worked really and she worked so hard for that. And with each step she’s taken, she’s recognized her capabilities.” Watch out world, there’s no stopping her.