December of 2020 started perfectly. I recently accepted my first job offer after completing my undergraduate degree and anticipated my start date in the new year…
In the second week of the month, I fell ill to what I thought was the stomach flu. I was soon rushed to the hospital after extreme nausea refused to subside, and I developed excessive hiccups. After eight days in the hospital, my symptoms never improved. My limbs became getting weaker and my fatigue became stronger. I was discharged with a false diagnosis of gastroenteritis (an intestinal infection).
The next day, my symptoms drastically increased and I was rushed to Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital by ambulance. Shortly after, I was diagnosed with neuromyelitis optica (NMO).
In January 2021, I was transported to Shepherd Center, a hospital that specializes in spinal cord injury, brain injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and other neuromuscular conditions. At the time of my arrival, I was clasped to a power wheelchair, paralyzed from the neck down and losing my vision. I only had mobility in my right arm. So scared and confused, I had no idea why this was happening. I had no idea how I could overcome this diagnosis. To my benefit, I had my mother by my side. She told me the best thing we can do is put our faith in God, work hard, and never lose hope because faith without work is dead.
I woke up every morning with a positive attitude, ready to give it my all in therapy. After three months of inpatient care, I regained mobility in my left arm, the strength to sit up straight on my own, and sensation throughout my legs. By the time of my discharge, my vision returned and I could even wiggle my toes!
For six months, I continued outpatient therapy at the Andrew C. Carlos Multiple Sclerosis Institute at Shepherd Center. I progressed from a power wheelchair to a manual wheelchair, walker, rollator, and forearm crutches. Today, I can walk independently with forearm crutches and leg braces. I am confident I will reach my goal of walking independently without assistance.
I choose to reflect on the miracles throughout my journey, not the hardships. I am so grateful for the new relationships I have developed, the new activities that I have been exposed to, and my strengthened faith in God. I have a greater appreciation for life and I am so proud of the woman who I have become. My psychiatrist has defined this as post-traumatic growth.