She’s just 17-years old, but Allie (short for Alexandria) Johnson, born in Maui, lives the life most of us only dream about. Beautiful, athletic, smart, talented, charming, witty. She’s every parent’s dream. Plus, she calls the breathtaking tropical splendor of Maui home. As Mary Poppins said, “Practically perfect in every way.”
Alas, there’s that “practically” qualifier. Allie’s also one of an estimated 20 million Americans afflicted with scoliosis (from the Greek “skolios,” meaning “crooked”), a medical condition in which a person’s spine is curved from side to side. In Allie’s case, non-invasive physiotherapy treatments and bracing devices failed to halt the increasing curvature of her spine, which initially was diagnosed when she was only seven years old.
She hid her uneven shoulder blades underneath long hair and fashionable hoodies; kept up her piano playing, and stuck to a grueling sports schedule that included track, volleyball and canoe paddling.
But eventually, the pain proved too much to bear. Allie’s parents, unable to find the right treatment for their daughter, grew despondent. Surely something could be done?
A chance encounter with a Baylor Scoliosis Center at Plano diorama advertisement at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport by Chuck, Allie’s dad, proved to be a game-changer. The multi-specialty team at the Baylor Scoliosis Center offers advanced outpatient and inpatient surgical services at Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano.
“Allie’s aggressive curve definitely required corrective surgery,” says Michael O’Brien, M.D., medical director of research at the Baylor Scoliosis Center. “She and her parents were well-educated on her situation, so all I really did was try to put the situation into perspective and help them make this big decision based on facts, not fear.”
Allie’s mom, Toni, recalls, “When we walked into Baylor Plano, it was the first time in eight years that a doctor looked at her and didn’t gasp. But Dr. O’Brien was amazing. It was obvious that he cared so much, and he gave us options we’d never had before, as well as the confidence to move ahead.”
“Allie was a star patient, really brave,” asserts nurse-practitioner Sue Saunders, who rounded on Allie during her eight day hospital stay. “And her parents were on top of things and extremely supportive, which helped immensely.”
Also helpful: Allie’s determination to document the entire process for her senior project. “She filmed everything,” laughs Saunders, “and I mean everything. She’s already got an A-plus-plus in my book.”
And what does Allie think of her trans-oceanic adventure? “I can’t wait to get to the beach!”