By Jeff Steers
(January 23, 2022 8:00 AM) Vandercook Lake High School sophomore Allie Curtis dreamed of being a big-time basketball player at the Cascades Conference school.
She played AAU basketball with a team for a number of years and was always the tall girl in her class.
But her body had another plan for her life.
Today, Curtis is learning the love of sports, being around teammates, and working toward a common goal – all from the seat of a wheelchair.
Two years ago, a case on mononucleosis triggered a number of reactions in her body causing the junior high student to see the world from a different perspective.
“Mononucleosis attached to my central nervous system,” Allie said. “I was dislocating my hips every time I walked.”
Curtis already suffered from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome – a group of inherited disorders that affect your connective tissues primarily a person’s skin, joints, and blood vessel walls. Connective tissue is a complex mixture of proteins and other substances that provide strength and elasticity to the underlying structures in your body.
The results were a number of secondary conditions such as a paralyzed stomach, having to drink from a port to get fluids, and losing the use of her legs.
“For a while, it seemed that everything was taken from me,” Allie said. “My doctor told me that everyone has a vision for life and sometimes you feel as if it has all been stolen from you.
“For a while, it did get me down. I had to quit dreaming about the life I did have and understand the reality of now.”
Curtis had played basketball, volleyball and ran track in junior high. Her mother, Amanda, said she was so tall in second grade she played on a fifth-grade basketball team. Standing up today, Allie is nearly 6-feet tall.
Last year Allie – and most of her classmates – did a little bit of nothing because of COVID-19. Allie told her mother this year she wanted to bowl in the winter.
“I was shocked when she told me that,” Amanda said. “We have rarely bowled as a family.”
But spurred by her friends, Allie began to bowl on the Vandercook Lake team in December. Her high game for the season is 123, but somehow that pales in comparison to the benefit of being on a team and the sense of acceptance.
“They have accepted Allie for who she is,” Amanda said. “Bowlers are great because if you need help, they will step up and help you.
“We bowled at Addison and they (Addison bowlers) were doing fist bumps with our bowlers.”
Allie, maybe for the first time in two years, has taken notice of how she is perceived by others.
“They (bowlers) don’t see me as someone in a wheelchair … they see a person and I am equal,” Allie said. “I belong.”
Her physical problems have not stopped Allie in the classroom. She has a perfect 4.0 grade point average – tops in her class – and is taking early college classes. Allie expects to have 25-30 college credits by the time she graduates from VCL in 2024.
“I would like to study nursing in college,” Allie said. “I have had some amazing nurses who have stepped up to help me.
“I want to be that person.”
Allie plans to try out for track in the spring by throwing the shot put.
“At least I won’t have to run,” she said with a smile.
While others in her position may be saying life was taken away from them, Allie has a different perspective.
“It’s not over,” Allie said. “I used to play sports to win, now I play just to have fun.
“I have a better outlook on sports.”