Abraham Lincoln once said, “we can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses,” and that just about sums up the perspective I perceived on the series of unfortunate events that I call my life. In a span of seventeen years, I have been diagnosed with a traumatic brain disorder, undergone a severe procedure on my brain, and was even involved in a critical car accident. Often, when I tell people that, I receive a response similar to, “I’m so sorry,” or “you poor thing,” but the truth is, there’s nothing for anyone to feel bad about; I’m thankful for everything that’s happened to me, because it’s shaped me into the person I am today.

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As a young child I was very active almost every day, participating in multiple types of dance classes, doing gymnastics, playing lacrosse, and running around with friends. For some reason however, all of those typical activities lead to health consequences for me. Beginning at 4:30 am the morning after just about every dance class, gymnastics class, or lacrosse game/practice, I would wake up violently vomiting, sometimes up to twenty times within three hours. For years and years, I suffered through never feeling well and never knowing why this was happening to me, but it never stopped me. Every morning after violently vomiting I got up and went to school, participated in all of my after school activities, socialized with friends, all while squeezing in numerous doctor’s appointments and health tests. 

As sad as it may seem, I thought that this was what my life would be forever, and because of that, I quickly taught myself how to positively look at the situation. I began to look forward to doctors because I knew they were going to help me, and every test I received made me feel happy that I was one step closer to feeling well again. Finally, in fourth grade I was diagnosed with a brain disorder called Chiari Malformation. I was referred to a neurologist and put on medication right away; I was also given limitations and restrictions. I was told to stop participating in sports and to rest more often. For a short while I listened to that instruction, but that wasn’t me. It wasn’t long until I wanted to get up and on my feet again. Therefore, I ignored the doctor’s requests and continued to live a life as a normal child because that’s all I ever wanted, regardless of my condition and despite the consequences.

By my second year of high school, I had dealt with enough of the pain and sickness and I was ready to make a change. I went back to my specialty doctor and I told him that my lacrosse season was starting up in three and a half months and that I wanted to be on that field playing and feeling better than ever. His response was petrifying. “The only way to make you completely better is to undergo a serious and risky brain surgery.” My parents looked at me, expecting me to look at them in fear and with resistance, but with no hesitation I told my doctor, “let’s do it!” I was given the option to wait a month for the surgery, in which case I wouldn’t be capable of playing lacrosse that upcoming season, or to get the surgery within the next week with little to no preparation time, but I would be perfectly healthy for the upcoming season. I chose to get it over with that week. The surgery was a piece of cake. I spent 8 hours under anesthesia and 5 long days in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Weill Cornell New York Presbyterian Hospital. I enjoyed every minute of it. What an enlightening and life altering experience.  I enjoyed seeing all of the surrounding support from my family and I loved seeing the doctors and nurses doing what they do. Toward the end of my stay in the hospital an occupational therapist came in to get me out of bed for the first time. She retaught me how to perform safely perform daily tasks like sit, walk and use the bathroom.  Her kind spirit and encouraging attitude gave me so much hope and touched me so deeply. I knew the minute I met her that she had just showed me exactly what I wanted and needed to do as my profession later in life.

After three months of a long and hard recovery, I was finally cleared to be a normal kid again and live a normal life. I had just made the varsity lacrosse team and accomplished the goal I set out to achieve. Everything was going so well and I was feeling great, but once again, life had something different planned. I was in the front passenger’s seat in my friend’s car when I was t-boned on my way to school, taking the full impact personally. 

As I reflect back on that day, I am amazed by my courage and strength despite my injuries.  Many people rushed to the scene but it had felt as if time had stopped and nobody knew what to do. As the youngest person on the scene, I had to call 911 and report the incident and speak to authorities once they arrived because I could think beyond the chaos,, injury and fear. I had done this my entire life.  But now, after being diagnosed with a severe concussion, I was no longer able to participate in lacrosse and I was largely restricted. I was told to stay off of all electronics and all of my school’s teaching methods were on IPads. Once again I found myself working against the odds to keep up my grades and continue to succeed while struggling through all of these obstacles.  

I feel proud when I look back on the craziest of year and can report I ended the year with a very strong grade point average. Even though I missed school due to the surgery and than had to learn via other methods because of the accident, I proudly rose above it. Happily, I went on to play lacrosse the next year, feeling lucky everyday I was there and we even won league championship, too). 

I learned that the best way to remain optimistic was to find the beauty in all that’s been thrown your way. Yes, I was in a car accident, but I lived. Yes, I underwent a brain surgery all to play a sport that in the end I couldn’t, but I still feel better. Yes, I juggled so many things at once when I never felt well, but in the end I learned that no matter what life throws my way I will and can overcome it. People say I’ve lived a lifetime in my short seventeen years of life, and for that I am thankful. I have been shaped into a person with so much experience and hope and determination, and I know that obstacles will stand in my way, but with positivity and a strong will, anything can be overcome. Abraham Lincoln described two types of people, but I am gladly one of those to rejoice because the thorn bushes have roses.