Many people, including my parents, often openly wonder why I am interested in science. Both of my parents are involved in advertising as art directors, so they’re very creative people. Even my younger brother is planning on continuing that creative legacy through some form of film production. I’ve been the odd one out in my family since middle school, when I started to revel in my science and math classes while my friends began dismissing them. More recently, I’m now majoring in Organismal Biology and happily on my way to becoming a genetic counselor, helping and providing resources to patients daily. None of us really knew where this scientific excitement came from, but after pondering over the years, we think we have an answer.
possible trigger warning: intense medical conditions and descriptions
You wouldn’t know it by looking at me, but I was born with a neurological defect known as Chiari Malformation, in which the back of the brain (or cerebellum) improperly descends on top on the spinal cord. This causes large pockets of spinal fluid to form around the brain, leading to motor and muscle damage. My condition was discovered when I was about nine and I was immediately treated in order to halt progression of the fluid. In October 2005, I underwent decompression surgery to open up the back of my skull and allow the brain to retreat away from the spinal cord. The operation was a complete success and my pockets of fluid cleared up very quickly. However, soon after my procedure, the secondary effects of nine years of stress on my internal systems became clear. The constant pressure placed on my spinal cord impacted the proper growth of many crucial muscles. As I got older, all of the muscles on the left side of my body, head to toe, became underdeveloped in comparison with my right side. While not only inconvenient and occasionally disorienting, my muscles could not adequately support my spinal cord. So I had two spinal fusion surgeries for rather extreme scoliosis during middle school and high school, both of which have been relatively successful.
Alright, let’s take a deep breath… Okay, you back? Great. It seems to me that the exhilaration I feel when it comes to science and medicine stems from these personal experiences as a patient. It would have been acceptable, even normal, to fear hospitals and doctors offices after everything I’ve been through, to cringe and tear up at the mention injury or surgery. Instead, understand the way in which the human body functions, and how it interacts with the surrounding world, inspire and drive me everyday. I chose to see medicine and the clinical sphere in a positive and miraculous light and have accepted them as an inevitable part of my life, whether I would have wanted it to be or not. Because of that, I couldn’t be happier with the life I’m living. It is vitally important to try to acknowledge the good in the world. While some people can’t avoid the negatives, if you are privileged enough to be able to see the silver lining, please embrace it . Because it might lead you somewhere awesome.