Anicee's brittle bone disease doesn't stop her art



For most kids, an occasional broken bone goes along with an active childhood. But imagine breaking more than 100 bones before the age of 10. 

That was the reality for Anicee. She suffers from osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), a rare genetic disorder that causes extremely brittle bones. For Anicee, a movement as common as a sneeze has the potential to crack a rib.

Although the spirited 11-year-old is confined to a wheelchair, she’s never lost her positive outlook. It also helps that she receives outstanding medical care at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

A new home

Anicee didn’t always have access to good medical care. She was born in Belize and lived in an orphanage there for several years. At age 6, she was connected to a couple from Colorado, Lisa and Chris, both of whom also have OI.

“We always knew that we wanted to adopt a child who had OI,” said Lisa.

The couple initially learned of Anicee through an adoption agency. They scheduled a trip to Belize over Mother’s Day of 2010 to meet her.

“We instantly fell in love with her,” said Lisa of their first meeting.

The original plan was for the family to get to know Anicee and then return home, but as the week was coming to an end, Chris and Lisa couldn’t bear to leave. They decided to stay in Belize until Anicee’s adoption could be finalized. Two months later, all three of them flew home together as a family.

Strength through surgery

During her years in the orphanage, doctors in Belize had put casts on Anicee’s broken bones, but intricate surgeries were never possible.

“We knew that Anicee was going to need a lot of medical treatment,” said Lisa. “It was extremely comforting to know that we were going to come back to Colorado and she was going to get excellent care at Children’s.”

When she first arrived in the U.S., Anicee’s legs were severely bowed – one nearly to a 90-degre angle.  The family met with pediatric experts at Children’s Colorado to develop a treatment plan. Soon thereafter, doctors performed surgery to place metal rods in her femurs and lower legs to make them straighter and stronger. After recovering from surgery, Anicee couldn’t believe the difference.

“When I used my legs, I thought, ‘Wow, this is the best thing I could ever have!’” said Anicee.

Next, Anicee had to undergo a highly intricate spinal fusion to improve her mobility. During the nine-hour surgery, doctors placed three rods and 20 screws in Anicee’s back. She later underwent another major surgery to have rods placed in her arms.

Thanks to the successful procedures, Anicee can now use her limbs more easily. Her surgeries have allowed her to keep doing one of the things she loves most – painting.

Aspiring artist

In recent years, Anicee has become a successful young artist. At a fundraising event for Children’s Colorado, two of her works of art were auctioned off for $50,000 each. Word of Anicee’s talents spread, and she recently had the opportunity to present a painting to First Lady Michelle Obama.

“Every painting she does is better than the last,” said Chris. “It’s amazing.”

Today, Anicee continues to receive follow-up care at Children’s Colorado. Chris and Lisa say they are extremely grateful for everything the hospital has done for their family.

“The doctors and everyone there take care of my daughter, and that’s the most important thing in our lives,” said Lisa. “We’re so thankful that they’re here.”

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