Wheelchair-bound student and her service dog star in production of "The Wizard of Oz"

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By: CBS News
April 9, 2019

NEW JERSEY (CBS) -- The yellow brick road took Erin Bischoff on a surprising journey, playing the lead role of Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz" at Hasbrouck Heights High School in New Jersey.

At 3 years old, Erin had her first surgery to treat osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic disorder known as brittle bone disease. In her 17 years, Erin has had at least 103 bone fractures and 10 surgeries.

"I was not expecting Dorothy. I was expecting more of a Glinda, a more secondary character," she said.

But her mom, Michelle, always saw Erin as a star.

"After her first operation she had significant scarring on that beautiful little body of this beautiful little girl and the lines are never gonna go away. So, we decided, instead of calling them scars, they're lines of courage," said Michelle Bischoff.

That courage led Erin and her service dog Gage through trials and triumphs.

"Since it was 'The Wizard of Oz,' he had to be Toto," Erin said.

Her wheelchair sometimes prompts unwanted reactions.

"There are a lot of people who will see the chair first and their first question is like, 'Oh what's wrong with you?'" Erin said. "You're not asking me because you want to get to know me, you're asking me because you're curious for five seconds. You're not seeing me as another person who's doing their own thing."

Michelle said it's amazing to see her daughter in the lead role.

"She makes me a better person," she said.

Erin hopes her role will make a difference.

"My main thing is I really want them just to see me as anyone else who's on the stage. And that overall, disability should be embraced," Erin said.