Kootenai Prosthetics & Orthotics

Braced for Success

Chelsea Nelson

“Once I got used to the idea that I have scoliosis,” Chelsea says, “I thought: what can I do to help other girls realize this isn’t as bad as it seems at first?”

When 13-year-old Chelsea Nelson was diagnosed with scoliosis on September 17, 2011 (she remembers the exact date), she was devastated.

“I was really scared,” she says, “and really upset that I wouldn’t be able to do sports anymore.” Softball, basketball and volleyball were all part of the seventh grader’s extracurricular activities at Bowdish Middle School.

Most common in girls, scoliosis causes the spine to curve from side to side in the shape of the letter “S” or “C” and usually starts in childhood. It can cause pain and make breathing difficult. Treatment includes wearing a torso brace for several hours a day and in some cases, surgery is recommended.

Chelsea wears a brightly patterned brace that wraps around her body from her armpits to her hipbones twelve hours a day. Although the brace is covered by her shirt or sweatshirt, at first Chelsea was quite self conscious about the blocky silhouette it created beneath her clothes. But not any more.

“I’m not shy about it now,” she says. “It isn’t something I can change and the more information I have about scoliosis and its treatment, the more I realize it’s better to wear a brace than have my spine continue to curve.”

She’s committed to educating and supporting other girls with scoliosis and with her mother’s help, is organizing Curvy Girls Spokane, an Inland Northwest chapter of Curvy Girls, a national group (www.curvygirlsscoliosis.com) dedicated to supporting pre-teens and teenagers with scoliosis.

She was recently named Hero of the Month by KREM TV and was interviewed and filmed for Rachel’s Challenge, a program that recognizes random acts of kindness that make young people heroes.

Later this year, Chelsea will undergo surgery to implant metal rods in her back to stabilize her spine. The rods will stay in her body forever, but her neon-bright brace will become a thing of the past.

Meanwhile, the optimistic, energetic teen stays busy singing soprano in the school choir, mastering advanced math classes, listening to music that ranges from Pop to Rock to Country and playing with Persie, the family’s nine month old black lab/German shepherd puppy.

If you know someone who might be interested in Curvy Girls Spokane, they can contact Chelsea at curvygirlsspokane@gmail.com.

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