Since my diagnosis, I have had over 18 surgeries, the hardest of which were my back surgeries. Like most people with this condition, I have scoliosis. I was diagnosed at ten, and at twelve I had the upper two thirds of my back fused. This surgery was followed by a complete fusion in July 2012. Two months later, my physical therapist was looking at my incision and noticed what looked like a rash. I went back to the doctor who did my surgery, and he told me it would go away. Over the next year, the rash turned black and blue. I also had a water filled sack that cushioned a screw that was protruding from my back. In September 2013, I was having constant low-grade fevers which then spiked to 104 degrees and I felt miserable. I went to my pediatrician and had bloodwork done. On September 18th, she called my parents and said that my infection markers were off the charts. She told them I had to go to the Emergency Room right away. I spent 12 days in the hospital with an infection in the rod in my lower back. I had three debridement procedures in the area, and had the hardware from my most recent surgery taken out. However, I had an unexpected complication. I went into acute kidney failure due to the strong medication being filtered through my kidneys. I was in a coma-like state for 28 hours, and spent two days in the PICU. I was released on September 30th and my parents had to give me antibiotics through a PICC in my arm for a month. I missed six weeks of school at the start of my freshman year, and had to be tutored to catch up. Once the PICC was removed, I returned to school, but had to take antibiotics orally for another five months. During this time, even though I was physically recovering, my mental health began to get worse.
I know that I have always had anxiety, but after my back infection it was at an all-time high. I wanted to be in control of everything, especially my grades. This caused me to become stressed, and I would cry if I did poorly on a test, or an assignment. I also would start sobbing anytime I had to see a doctor. Finally, in August 2014, I decided to start seeing a Psychologist. Over these past two years, she has helped me sort through my anger surrounding my infection and all that I have had to endure over the years. She has also given me coping skills that I can use when I have to have another surgery, or I need to see a doctor. Even though what happened to me was traumatic, I believe it forced me to acknowledge my mental health. If I hadn’t gone through it, I think I would not have sought help for my anxiety. That experience also helped me realize what I believe is my purpose in life. I want to counsel those with disabilities, chronic diseases, and conditions that require frequent hospitalizations and surgeries. My dream is to go to The Ohio State University next fall, and major in Psychology. I want to conduct research on the link between spinal cord injuries and anxiety and depression. I believe the mental health aspect of having a disability is largely ignored, and I want to use my experiences to relate and help others through the hardest times of their lives. I want to tell patients and their families that they can lead normal lives, and that their disease or condition doesn’t define them. Sure having Transverse Myelitis isn’t the life anyone desires, but it was the one I was given, and I want to use this life to inspire and educate others.