Beauty and imperfection aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s our differences that make us beautiful and irreplicable individuals.
Alexis Kremers, 17, knows something about this. We first introduced you to Alexis, an extraordinarily talented dancer, last June. Alexis has been dancing since she was 3. She’s a two-time national champion and aspires to pursue dance in college.
A Dream In Jeopardy
On October 19, 2011, Alexis’ life turned upside down when she was diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis. With a curve in her upper spine and several more years of growth ahead of her, Alexis was at high risk for the curve getting worse. Her physician at Gillette Children’s, Steven Koop, MD, cautioned that she might need spinal fusion surgery if her curve increased to 45 degrees or more.
Spinal fusion surgery, however, would mean a permanent end to Alexis’ dream of becoming a professional dancer. So Alexis made a commitment. She would wear a brace for 20 hours a day, seven days a week. Made of hard plastic, the brace encased her body from her chest to her hips. It meant adjustments to her wardrobe (something not insignificant for a teenage girl) and changes to how she moved and slept.
During the few hours when she wasn’t in her brace, Alexis danced.
Dancing Into the Future
Alexis’ Gillette caregivers shared her dedication to avoiding major surgery and Koop closely monitored the progression of her curve for the next six years. On May 16, 2017, Alexis received news she describes as amazing: Her curve was now only 30 degrees—and with her prime growth years behind her, she no longer needed to wear her brace! Best of all, she successfully avoided the surgery she once feared.
“It’s the little things I’m excited about,” says Alexis. “I bought my first tank top in six years, and I’ll get to swim at the pool this summer. Most important I can look at colleges for dance next year.”
Inspired by the children she encountered during her visits to Gillette, Alexis adds that she hopes, someday, to become a pediatric physical therapist.
Like an Orchid
Alexis’ dad, Mark Kremers, shares a story that’s perfectly fitting for the end to his daughter’s journey with scoliosis. For six years, as he tells it, they’d walk past the Lunds & Byerlys near the Gillette St. Paul campus. Alexis fell in love with the vibrant blue orchids the store offered—the flower isn’t something easily found in their hometown of St. Cloud, Minnesota.
“On the day Alexis got out of her brace, I bought her the blue orchid,” shares Kremers. “I said to Alexis, ‘Like an orchid, you are curved and not perfect. Yet to me an orchid is the most beautiful flower I have ever seen.’”