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Studying to be a Doctor While Living as a Patient

I was diagnosed with Chiari Malformation and Syringomyelia during college. At the time I had no idea my life would change forever. Since then I’ve lived in and out of the hospital, sometimes months at a time. I’ve undergone six brain surgeries, four feeding tube surgeries, five shunt surgeries, multiple procedures, diagnostic tests, and have been diagnosed with Hydrocephalus, Trigeminal Neuralgia, Adrenal Insufficiency and Tethered Brainstem along the way.

In February 2017, I went in for my sixth brain surgery and woke up unable to function from the neck down. We knew it was going to be a risky surgery as there is only three to four other cases reported in the literature of a tethered brainstem. It was determined I suffered a stroke to my brainstem during surgery; because of this I had to spend months in the hospital re-learning how to do absolutely everything in every day life. From learning to bathe, dress, feed myself again, to becoming a left handed person and learning to write, type and turn a page in a book, to learning how to walk again. Every single thing we do in everyday life that most of us take for granted, I had to re- learn how to do, all while trying to still continue school and follow my dream of becoming a doctor.

So through college and now through medical school, I’ve battled these illnesses. There was days when I’d study just by listening to recordings of lectures because I couldn’t see, days when I used audio command to operate my computer because I couldn’t lift my hands; there were days when I studied laying down because I was too weak to sit up from the dehydration the vomiting caused when the intracranial pressure in my brain was high. There were days when I had to have someone push me in my wheelchair to be able to go to school, days when I had to attend dinner meetings and just look at other people eat at the table while my feeding tube was hooked up to my body because I couldn’t swallow anything by mouth. But, in my eyes, these were the good days since I was still able to do something, because some days I didn’t even know of my existence.

Today I just finished my second year at McGovern Medical School in the Texas Medical Center. In two years I will be a doctor despite all the adversity I have faced.

Life isn’t so much about what happens to you, but how you respond. I share my story hoping to give others hope that they too can follow their dreams despite their health setbacks. It may be difficult and our journey will certainly be different than most, but as long as you don’t give up you can do it. But no one should have to do it alone. I love Fight Like A Warrior because it gives a way for all of us to support each other no matter what we are going through. We are not alone. My goal as a fellow warrior and future doctor is to empower others to live the life they have imagined, to be able to follow theirs dreams.

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