Thea Flanzer is a 16-year-old with a plan, and that plan has included training at the Gateway School of Performing Arts as a student and actress since she was five-years-old. She has performed and starred in professional shows at The Gateway Playhouse and off-Broadway. What Thea did not plan for was her recent two-year battle with scoliosis. She was first diagnosed at age 10, told it would not return, it did, and after a re-diagnosis in May 2017, she made the difficult decision to have surgery in October 2018.
This high school junior, who attends a virtual Gifted and Talented program at Laurel Springs School, underwent a seven-hour spinal fusion surgery to correct her scoliosis.
The procedure performed by Doctor Michael G. Vitale and Doctor Richard C. Anderson successfully preserved the mobility of Thea’s spine by only placing two rods on the upper half of her spine to allow her to continue pursuing her dreams of acting. Having performed over 200 spinal surgeries per year, these doctors assured that Thea is not only back on stage but has also acquired a new moniker – “Bionic Girl.”
Thea loves going to school on-line in an environment where she is working with teachers and other students from around the globe, and which offers her a flexible learning program with a college preparatory curriculum. Pacing is important for a budding actress and Thea has paced her challenges accordingly. She hopes to attend the Yale School of Drama in the future.
It should be noted that The Pediatric Orthopedic Research Fund at Columbia University, spearheaded by Dr. Vitale, has been an integral part of many Pediatric Scoliosis breakthroughs including the use of a magnetic spine lengthening device (called MAGEC) for growing children.
Thea revealed, “I had my surgery five days before my 16th birthday and it was totally successful. I feel great and my doctors are miracle workers. I was just told in March that I am in the clear and I couldn’t be more thankful.”
A now wizened young lady continued, “I hope to encourage other kids suffering from scoliosis. It is a really hard disease and before I was diagnosed I had a plan, and then everything went crazy, but everything happens for a reason. One thing that was told to me before my surgery just keeps coming back to me, and that is every superhero needs a good origin story, so I guess this is mine.”
Committed to giving back to those that helped her, Thea is hosting her first The Artist Alignment: Shine for the Spines cabaret fundraiser to benefit the Pediatric Scoliosis Research for Columbia Children’s Health in honor of her doctors at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital on Saturday, May 18 at 6:30 p.m. at the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall.
“I was extremely lucky, and had a lot of family and friends who were supportive and who went all out which made me more determined to get better and get back to being a teenager and pursuing what I love. Their kindness inspired me to give back to kids with scoliosis any way I can.”
Assisting Thea in this worthy endeavor are her mentors Michael Baker of The Gateway Playhouse, Virginia Mesiano of Backyard Theatre, and colleague/friend Ethan Eisenberg. Performances will include artists with Broadway and National Tour credits, a 50/50 raffle, and a “lucky basket” auction. All of the proceeds from the event will go towards researching new scoliosis treatments.
Buy tickets at Eventbrite: www.eventbrite.com.
For more information about The Artist Alignment: Shine for the Spines, email [email protected].