#UCPSGrads: Cuthbertson High senior Bella Mallozzi defies the odds and reaches her dreams
Graduation is a momentous occasion for any high school senior as it represents the culmination of 13 years of hard work, dedication and focus.
But for Cuthbertson High senior Bella Mallozzi, graduating from high school has an even deeper meaning.
“When I think of graduating, it makes me feel invigorated. I may have been tasked with more than a regular kid, but I’ve beaten it,” she said. “In this moment, I feel like I’m kind of fearless and can conquer anything in my path.”
Those “tasks” that Bella refers to are the 38 brain surgeries she’s had due to hydrocephalus, a medical condition in which she experiences buildup of fluid in cavities deep within her brain.
Hydrocephalus has caused Bella to spend countless days in the hospital and suffer debilitating headaches. The surgeries have impacted her short-term memory and caused issues with language reception and processing.
But it has never held Bella back.
Instead, these medical setbacks have only fueled her desire to succeed against all odds.
Today, Bella not only has a 4.65 GPA, but she is also a Presidential Scholar semi-finalist, peer tutor, honor student and member of several extracurricular clubs.
She volunteers every week at a retirement home, and spends countless hours working to overcome challenges of her medical condition with a level of determination practically unheard of at such a young age.
Reflecting on the summer before her freshman year, Bella laughs when she talks about meeting with her Cuthbertson High counselor to discuss the dozens of clubs and advanced coursework she planned to tackle during her high school career.
Then, she experienced seven brain surgeries in two months and subsequently suffered from brain damage.
In dealing with that blow, Bella said her family was her rock. She also credited her “incredible support system” at Cuthbertson High for helping to propel and motivate her throughout her four years in high school.
“I’ve had a lot of exceptional teachers here who have advocated and cheered for me along the way,” she said. “There’s a vulnerability in knowing that your head doesn’t always perform the right way. It’s such an indescribable feeling to know you have support system that you can fall back on and come to about anything.”
When talking about her medical condition, Bella uses language similar to that of a veteran surgeon. That makes sense, considering her personal experiences with hydrocephalus have inspired her to become a neurosurgeon and help children who have similar illnesses.
“When I was diagnosed at two years old, they said a lot of scary things. They said I wouldn’t walk, would be developmentally challenged and would have deficits,” she said. “As a doctor, I want to be able to look at a mom and say, ‘I know this is really scary but I’m going to heal your child, and your child can overcome and go to college or do whatever they want to do.’”
However, a neurosurgery career is still years away. For now, Bella is preparing to attend University of South Carolina as a Stamp Scholar in the fall.
Even before that, she’ll need to take that momentous walk across the stage on June 10 as a high school graduate.
“I feel like I made it. There are things we can control in life and things we can’t, but I feel like I have the coping skills and experience to handle what gets thrown at me,” she said. “I’d like to think I’ve never abandoned any goals in the name of having this illness. No goal is unachievable when you’re working with an incredible support system, and that’s what I have.”