By Jeff Steers
(January 23, 2022 8:00 AM) Vandercook Lake High School sophomore Allie Curtis dreamed of becoming a major basketball player at Cascades Conference school.
She played AAU basketball with a team for several years and was always the tall girl in her class.
But her body had a different plan for her life.
Today, Curtis learns a love of sports, the company of teammates and working towards a common goal – all from the seat of a wheelchair.
Two years ago, a case of mononucleosis triggered a series of reactions in her body that made the junior high student see the world from a different perspective.
“Mononucleosis attached to my central nervous system,” Allie said. “Every time I walked, I dislocated my hips.”
Curtis already suffered from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome – a group of inherited disorders that affect your connective tissue, primarily a person’s skin, joints, and blood vessel walls. Connective tissue is a complex mix of proteins and other substances that give the underlying structures in your body strength and elasticity.
The results were a number of secondary conditions, such as a paralyzed stomach, drinking from a port to get fluids, and loss of use of her legs.
“For a while it seemed like everything had been taken from me,” Allie said. “My doctor told me that everyone has a vision for life and sometimes you feel like everything has been stolen from you.
“It let me down for a while. I had to stop dreaming about the life I had and understand the reality of now.”
Curtis had played basketball, volleyball and track and field in high school. Her mother, Amanda, said that in the second grade she was so tall that she played on a fifth grade basketball team. Allie stands up today and is almost six feet tall.
Last year, Allie — and most of her classmates — did a bit of nothing because of COVID-19. Allie told her mom this year that she wanted to go bowling in the winter.
“I was shocked when she told me that,” Amanda said. “We rarely bowled as a family.”
But spurred on by her friends, Allie started bowling for the Vandercook Lake team in December. Her highest game for the season is 123, but somehow that pales in comparison to the advantage of being on a team and feeling of acceptance.
“They’ve accepted Allie for who she is,” Amanda said. “Bowlers are great because if you need help, they will help you.
“We bowled at Addison’s and they (Addison bowlers) did fist punches with our bowlers.”
Allie, perhaps for the first time in two years, has noticed how she is seen by others.
“They (bowlers) don’t see me as someone in a wheelchair… they see a person and I’m equal,” Allie said. “I belong.”
Her physical problems didn’t stop Allie in class. She has a perfect 4.0 point average – top of her class – and attends early colleges. Allie expects to have 25-30 credits by the time she graduates from VCL in 2024.
“I’d like to study nursing at university,” Allie said. “I’ve had great nurses who have helped me.
“I want to be that person.”
Allie plans to try the track in the spring by throwing the shot put.
“At least I don’t have to run,” she said with a smile.
While others in her position may say that life has been taken from them, Allie has a different perspective.
“It’s not over yet,” Allie said. “I used to play sports to win, now I just play to have fun.
“I have a better view of sports.”