Brittany slowly opens her eyes as sunlight spills into her room. It’s better when she can sleep, at least then she can pretend she’s not here. For months, she has been restricted to this room, this bed, on strict instruction by her doctor. She has seen nothing but this 4×4 area of the ceiling. The only valuable thing she’s learned is how to eat soup while lying completely flat. This was not how she envisioned her freshman year of college.
When Brittany arrived at the campus of UC Berkley, she had lived more life than most of the 18-year-olds around her. At 11, Brittany was rushed to the ER after her body went slack and doctors couldn’t find a pulse. Two weeks later she woke up on life support, being kept alive by a feeding tube. As doctors searched in vain for answers, a neurologist flew in to look at Brittany’s case and diagnosed her with ADEM with Transverse Myelitis. She would never walk again.
For a reason we will never understand, a disease had entered Brittany’s body and attached itself to Brittany’s immune system, forcing her body to attack itself. It forever changed the course of her life in less time than it took me to write this sentence.
Those who get pushed to the brink and have the resolve to crawl, claw, push, fight back just to keep getting the chance to wake up and do it again possess a strength the rest of us can only dream of. And after you look death in the eye and decide ‘not today’ – the world around you comes into focus. Your path becomes more evident, more urgent. And a little voice whispers in your ear: You are wasting precious time.
Once Brittany was out of that room she began moving forward and never looked back. Her past had been riddled with obstacles, disappointments, bullying, and fear. Days had slipped through her fingers; things had happened she couldn’t control. She had never gone to a school dance or dated a guy because she had never felt “normal.” On the other hand, her future was a clean slate that held unlimited possibilities. “The thought of being that much closer to freedom,” Brittany said, “makes my eyes water.”
So it was here, now, in the present, that she had work to do. Brittany went back to school. And in December 2014, she received a Bachelor’s degree in Business Marketing. She was the first person in her family to graduate college.
Brittany began seeking out people with whom she could relate and look up to. She began attending a support group for other people affected by Transverse Myelitis. It was here, among friends, she felt for the first time in years like she really belonged. And one of those new friends knew a woman named Melissa Smith, and told Brittany about a little thing called Chive Charities.