By Megan Wehring
HAYS COUNTY — Hearing that something is different about you can be a tough pill to swallow.
In 2019, Alyssa Jones, a sophomore at Lehman High School, discovered that she had severe scoliosis and needed to undergo thoracic fusion surgery in a short period of time because her curve was progressing at a rapid rate. This came as a surprise to her family.
“We made an appointment at the [Shriners Children’s] Shreveport Hospital in Louisiana for February of 2020,” Jones said, “only two months after I was diagnosed, which was crazy. I had a spinal fusion to correct my curvature.”
Jones previously had a 60-degree curve on the top and a 28-degree curve on the bottom. Following the surgery, her spine was corrected to an 11-degree curve on the top and 12 to 13 degrees on the bottom.
Before she was diagnosed with scoliosis, Jones knew that something was wrong.
“I was having trouble breathing and flexibility that I never had before,” Jones said. “I was in dance and cheerleading and I was having issues doing physical activity, just walking a long distance. I would have to sit down and take a break. I never realized why until I had my surgery that my lungs were essentially being pushed on by the twists in my spine.”
Jones traveled for the Shriners College Classic, as the University of Texas honorary captain, held on March 4 through March 6 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, where she was invited to throw the first pitch for the University of California, Los Angeles vs. University of Texas game.
“Definitely standing on the pitcher’s mound and looking at everyone in the crowd was nerve wracking,” Jones said. “But, I threw it and I made it how far I wanted to, even farther than I ever expected I would make it so I was really excited about that. It was a lot of fun.”
This kind of experience paved the way for future opportunities with the Shriners, Jones explained. She hopes that other kids who are diagnosed with scoliosis or in a similar situation can learn from her.
“Speaking about my story may help another kid realize that there is an option for them to go to Shriners,” Jones said. “They don’t have to go to this hospital that is going to treat them like a number and is not going to treat them like a person. I would just give them the advice to just go into it and pay attention to everything [Shriners] explains to you and ask them a lot of questions.”
Shriners treats its patients regardless of their ability to pay, Jones explained, which is something that her family needed to hear following her diagnosis.
Overcoming an obstacle
While she could have let her diagnosis weigh her down, Jones had decided to use this second chance to pursue sports medicine.
“My physical therapist was such a nice lady,” Jones told the Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch. “She really explained everything I was doing and that got me interested in sports medicine and I joined the athletic training program at my high school, because I was interested in pursuing that field. I love it. It’s what I wake up every day to do, it’s my favorite thing.”