UNION COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - Being a high school student is tough enough. But, Bella Mallozzi says she wasn’t going to let a rare brain condition hold her back from reaching her dreams.
“I didn’t want to compromise my goals for the sake of having to deal with some unexpected challenges,” says Bella. “I have Hydrocephalus, it’s an incurable brain condition so basically my brain does not process or drain my spinal fluid, so they implanted a manual filtration system in my head called a shunt and then it drains out into my lungs.”
In just a few weeks, Bella will graduate at the top of her class at Cuthbertson High School.
“During my freshman year, I started seeing some brain damage and that was a lot to cope with,” Says Bella.
She was diagnosed at just 2-years-old. Since then, Bella has had 38 surgeries and overcome short-term memory loss. But, through it all she still managed a full AP course load as an honor student.
“I’ve also had to be a normal kid and deal with crushes and all-nighters and that stuff. I think that having hydrocephalus didn’t really give me a free pass on the rest of life.”
“So much was taken from her with this disease,” says her mom, Shannon. “I wanted her to understand that she was bigger than this, and I wanted her to know that if she worked hard and put her mind to it, she could still achieve her goals.”
“My mom’ kind of been a role model for me, she’s been my advocate since I was two-and-a-half and this first started,” says Bella.
“You see her smile and it lights up a room. She has the biggest heart of any student, I mean her big beautiful brain is incredible, but I would say her heart might be even bigger,” says Bella’s math teacher, Dawn Dillner.
Just like her support system advocated for her, now Bella wants to do the same for others with medical and cognitive disabilities. Bella has partnered with a local children’s hospital to create a shadowing program for students at her high school.
“I’m very fortunate that I’m still here and high-functioning and what not but I’ve had a lot of friends that haven’t been able to be here,” says Bella. “I don’t think that I would be as committed to the field of medicine if I didn’t have the personal experiences fueling me and the experiences of other people that I’ve witnessed closely, fueling me.”
Although Bella doesn’t let her condition define her, she does feel like it’s given her drive and direction in life. In the fall, Bella will attend the University of South Carolina studying Psychology with a Neuroscience minor.