Alyssia’s problems began at birth, when she inherited a rare congenital disorder known as pterygium syndrome, characterized by a buildup of dense scar tissue that can affect the pelvis on down. In Alyssia’s case, that thickening tissue was gradually strangling the arteries and nerves in her leg.
Hospital chief of staff Dr. Jeffrey Ackman exhausted all other remedies before advocating for amputation. Ackman was able to save more muscle and tissue than he’d initially thought, which will enable Alyssia to be fitted with a prosthetic leg.
“My hope is to get her back to playing basketball as soon as she can,” the doctor said. “And I know she has the spirit for that.”
Alyssia’s mood in the 24 hours leading up to the operation surprised even her parents, Chad and Karen Crook, who adopted her from an orphanage in the Ukraine when she was 5 and have watched her endure her condition over the years.
“She was prepared, she was ready and she was emotionally ready to go,” said Chad Crook, a supervisor with Life EMS in Grand Rapids.
“No crying, no complaining, no drama,” Karen Crook said.
A benefit held in the teen’s honor last week netted thousands of dollars to help offset the cost of rehabilitating her home, which needs to be adapted for Alyssia. She will gradually progress from a wheelchair to a walker to crutches to, finally, the prosthetic leg.
Thursday’s operation began around 9 a.m., and Alyssia was back in her room shortly after noon. She cuddled with a stuffed animal and pestered her dad for ice chips.
By mid-afternoon, she was feeling well enough to make phone calls from her bed. In a call to her 18-year-old brother Aaron back home, she said, “I wanted to say hi, blah, blah, blah ... and to let you know I didn’t die.”
Asked if she had anything to say in the aftermath, Alyssia thought for a moment and answered, “God did great. He helps.”