24 May 83 days
83 days… sounds like how long a summer break is or something, right? For me this is a number that has completely changed my life and my future. Somewhere between my senior year in high school and my freshman year at the University of Michigan, I began to get sick, not like flu sick, more like “Oh crap something is really wrong” sick. Looking back there were signs that whole year. I was constantly tired, I was anemic, vitamin B-12 deficient, and any free minute I had, I spent asleep, not to mention the joint problems that thoroughly ruined my senior track season. Shortly after my high school graduation, things began to escalate quickly. I started having a really hard time breathing, was coughing up blood (sorry for the mental image), and finally could barely walk from one end of my house to the other without getting winded. I bounced back and forth between a couple different doctors and was eventually given a course of medication that allowed me to get through freshman orientation. Not more than a few days after coming home I was admitted to my hometown hospital, where I was given a nebulizer treatment designed to open up my lungs and to help me breathe. However, this treatment had the totally opposite effect, sending me into an uncontrollable coughing fit where I couldn’t breathe at all, and I was placed into a medically induced coma. After 14 days in said coma with no improvement and no diagnosis, I was flown to the University of Michigan hospital by Survival Flight. After arriving at the University of Michigan hospital, I would spike a fever of 106 degrees and be diagnosed with Systemic Lupus that was attacking my brain, lungs, and kidneys. During the next 69 days at UM I would go through 4 ICU’s, seize twice, go into septic shock, and be placed on ECMO. Eventually I was finally, finally, FINALLY allowed to go home-I thought. Not even 24 hours after arriving home I would wake up completely blind, After arriving at the hospital (again) I was diagnosed with Posterior Reversible Encephalopathy Syndrome (PRES), which is basically a fancy way of saying my blood pressure spiked to an extreme level, causing my brain to swell to where it was pressing on my optic nerves, thus making me blind. I couldn’t see and basically didn’t know what planet I was on. Now almost three years later, my cognition has fully returned but my vision is still pretty limited, I have no peripheral or lower vision. I am now looking at my senior year at the University of Michigan and am a history major with a minor in law, justice, and social change. A degree that I hope to use to become a disability lawyer to bring equality, justice, and recognition to those with disabilities, especially invisible ones like mine.
This whole journey has taught me so many things. It has shown me that the people who care about you most will always be there when you need them most, even the ones you least expected. It has shown me how strong I am both mentally and physically. And it has brought me into a whole new community with whom I can share my struggles, but also be there to support others like me.