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Alyssia's story

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Showing no limits in the water

Alyssia diving into poolAlyssia says the water is the one place she feels completely free. She first tried swimming as part of her physical therapy after having her left leg amputated when she was 13 years old. Now, five years later, Alyssia is competing with the fastest swimmers in the world.

Alyssia has a long-term goal of bringing home a medal in the 2020 games in Tokyo, Japan. Beyond that, she would like to help kids with physical disabilities through swimming and rehabilitation, showing them how to find strength in the water as she has.

Alyssia has a rare congenital condition called popliteal pterygium syndrome, which is characterized by a knot of nerves, arteries and veins concentrated in her legs. As Alyssia's legs grew, the bundle did not, causing sharp pain, inhibiting growth and compromising circulation.

In 2003, 5-year-old Alyssia was living in a Ukranian orphanage, where Chad and Karen first met her. The couple immediately adopted her and flew her back to western Michigan.

Once in the states, Alyssia began treatment at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Chicago. She and her family say that Shriners Hospitals was the one place that correctly diagnosed her condition. Doctors at Shriners Hospitals provided care that enabled Alyssia to see success both in and out of the water.

When she was in middle school, Alyssia gained national media attention when, after many surgeries and painful procedures, she made the decision to have her leg amputated. She said that prayers and a desire to have an active life were behind her courageous choice. News organizations ran Alyssia’s story, including a video of her scoring during a basketball game.

“I am excited to have the chance to represent my country while competing in a sport I really love,” said Alyssia. She knows that there are no limits to what she can achieve, in or out of the water.

Shriners Hospitals for Children is proud to cheer on Alyssia. She is an excellent role model for young patients who may be facing tough physical and mental challenges of their own.

Alyssia standing by pool