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When looking at Isabella Sementilli at first glance, she appears to be a typical 15-year-old girl. Not someone who suffered from serious injuries after falling victim to a prank when she was in the fifth grade. 

On Oct. 21, 2013, Sementilli was about to sit down when suddenly her chair was yanked away by another classmate. From that moment on, her life would be changed forever.

“All the stuff I loved to do was gone: tap dance, tennis, just being the girl that I used to be,” Sementilli said, “A little 10-year-old, playing video games, running outside with my brother, Santino, all this stuff was gone.” 

Her hard fall resulted in a concussion, a fractured tailbone, back and neck injuries, and a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. What followed over the next four years were visits to 28 doctors, until Sementilli was finally diagnosed with a rare debilitating headache disorder called New Daily Persistent Headache and received treatment at Albany ­Medical Center. 

From that moment on she would be homeschooled. She began to bake, using a recipe from her grandfather, Louis Bianchi, tweaking it slightly and dubbing the new cookies ‘Iznettes’ to be sold at her father Guy’s restaurant, Scotti’s, located on Union Street in Schenectady.  A portion of the proceeds from her cookies is donated to brain-injury awareness and anti-bullying organizations. 

When she wasn’t baking, she began writing and drawing about the incident and injuries. 

“I wanted my book to be published so everyone, not just around here in schools, but hope­fully across the world, can see that a bully changed my life,” Sementilli said. “Everything that I loved to do was gone, so I want this to be spread so that what has happened to me doesn’t happen to anyone else.” 

Sementilli worked on the project for two years until “The Short Story of One Tough Cookie” was published in November 2018.

The book chronicles her personal journey, from the moment her chair was pulled from her, to the pain and suffering endured days after the incident, to taking up knitting and baking.  Within the last few pages, a triumphant Isabella raises a crocodile in the air, her long, brown hair falling almost to her hips, proclaiming “I was physically hurt and have lasting scars. Sometimes, emotionally I felt like I belonged on planet Mars. But look at me now. I got me to be as fierce as a crocodile. I am … STRONG. I am … EMPOWERED.” 

Ultimately, Sementilli credits her faith for helping her get through each day. Even before the incident, every Sunday at 7:30 a.m., her entire family would attend Mass at St. John the Evangelist.

“Faith was always important to me and I always wore my cross, always went to Church, morning and night prayers, that was just me,” Sementilli said. 

After her injuries, her faith only grew stronger. While a headache is the first thing that greets her every morning and the last thing she feels before going to bed, the only thing she asks God for is to get her through the day. 

“I say ‘Lord help me to remember that nothing is going to happen today that you and I can’t handle.’ ” 

On bad days, Isabella’s mother, Pola, offers to take her to church and she accepts, knowing she is always in God’s hands, Sementilli said.

Although there’s no cure for Sementilli’s rare debilitating headache disorder, she says God’s will grants her peace of mind.  “My faith is all that matters to me,” Sementilli said, “I know that whatever is God’s will will happen to me, so I know everything will be just fine.”

Repeating little prayers and hymns throughout the day, she never leaves the house without her sunglasses, earplugs and rosary.  “I really hope that my book promotes peace and kindness; that other people don’t bully and that this doesn’t happen to anyone else.” Sementilli said, “Because what I go through every day I wouldn’t wish on anyone.” 

Isabella Sementilli’s book, “The Short Story of One Tough Cookie” can be purchased at Scotti’s restaurant, Amazon.com, O’Connor’s Church Goods, The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Market Block Books, Niskayuna Co-op, The Potter Hill Barn, Proctor’s Gift Shop, area Hallmark stores and the Schenectady Community College Bookstore.