Meet our Honoree, Taylor!
My dream for my 11th birthday was to have my first ever sleep-over birthday party. My best girlfriends were to come to my house and we were to have pizza, junk food, and stay up all night listening to music and watching T.V….that never happened. Six days before my birthday, I began experiencing severe abdominal pains, nausea, vomiting, fever, diarrhea, blood loss, and sudden weight loss. My parents took me to Children’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. where I was immediately admitted.
After a battery of tests, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a chronic gastrointestinal tract disorder. I was told that this condition has no known cause or cure, and that I would have it for the rest of my life. Throughout my life I would experience “flares” and would have to take several medications every day to stay in remission. As a 10 year old, this news was devastating. I was so sick that I thought that I was going to die. I had different types of machines and feeding tubes attached to me. I was afraid, and even worse, my parents were afraid. My worst day in the hospital came when clowns came into my room to try to cheer me up, but it was too painful to even laugh. After about a week, I was stabilized, given medications to take at home, and was scheduled for discharge. It was my 11th birthday. The nurses brought me a cake and stuffed animals to celebrate. I was so happy to be going home, but I had no idea what was in store for me.One of the medications used to treat Crohn’s disease flares is an extremely high dosage of a steroid called Prednisone. The physical and psycho-social effects were terrible. It caused facial hair growth, joint pain, increased appetite, weight gain, and worst of all; a rounded “moon-face”. I gained over 25 pounds and became unrecognizable. I could no longer participate in sports and suffered the taunting and teasing of other kids and the stares of adults. Because I had been so sick, I had missed many days of school and had a lot of make-up work to do. I was under extreme pressure. My self esteem dropped and I became very depressed.
After I was taken off of the medication, I still suffered with self-image problems. Because I was so conscious about my weight, I subsequently became anorexic. Chewing on crushed ice gave me the sensation of constantly eating without gaining weight. By doing this, I lost almost 40 pounds in a short period of time. The poor diet caused an exacerbation of the Crohn’s symptoms and resulted in being placed back in the hospital and on Prednisone again. This occurred concurrently with my beginnings of puberty and entrance into middle school. At the same time, my parents announced that they were getting a divorce. I had finally reached my breaking point. My mother suggested counseling, so I reluctantly went. It helped to have another adult to talk to that could assist me at putting things into perspective. I am currently in remission and have not had a hospitalization in several years. I have come to accept my condition and have not allowed it to define who I am.
Even though this was undoubtedly the most difficult period in my life, my family was very supportive, helped me get through the challenges of managing a chronic illness, and helped me to learn to love the young woman that I am becoming.
This experience has also helped me to empathize with those who are facing challenges. Having experienced being both praised and shunned, I have faced the best and the worst. I know how words can affect a person’s self esteem and self worth. It has made me more compassionate, caring, and I am an advocate for those who are suffering. One of the greatest experiences that I’ve had was volunteering as a camp counselor with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) in West Virginia this past summer. Because of my personal experiences, I was able to share stories and coping techniques with the young children that I supervised. I helped them to realize that the disease is manageable and the side effects were not permanent.
My impression of healthcare was largely shaped by the individuals who participated in my care. They inspired me to pursue a career in the healthcare field. In particular, I would like to work with children. I am currently a junior, Biology major, Chemistry minor at Howard University in Washington, D.C. I plan to go to Dental School to become a Pediatric Orthodontist.
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