Diagnosis: Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis
California, United States
In February of 2015, I was unexpectedly rushed to the emergency department at UC San Diego after showing signs of altered mental status. The next month, I was airlifted to a medical center closer to my hometown in Santa Clara for ventilator weaning and rehabilitation. The memories are still crisp and clear when I woke up from my medically-induced coma. When I was told I was diagnosed with acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), a rare neurological disorder, my outlook on life ahead completely changed. My dream of one day becoming a doctor seemed to be impossible and shattered when I was a patient.
I was in a very dark place in my life not knowing if recovery was possible and even if so, what it would entail. I was absolutely frustrated that I had to undergo comprehensive therapies in addition to taking Keppra, an antiepileptic medication, on a daily basis. However, witnessing the immense love and commitment from the healthcare providers and my family pushed me to try my hardest to comply with anything that was required to get me better. Thankfully, given my rapid recovery, I was discharged to my older sister’s home in late May for continued comprehensive therapies through Rapid Without Walls®. I successfully completed my speech therapies in late October while concurrently enrolled in one course at community college. I was overcome with joy and felt so blessed when I was finally approved to return to UC San Diego last January to complete my undergraduate degree in public health. My life seemed to have picked up momentum in a bright direction.
I officially graduated last June and then started the post-baccalaureate program through the UC Davis School of Medicine. Every day, I feel incredibly grateful to be surrounded by unimaginably bright, supportive, and inspiring people who believe in my potential to become a doctor. They are my family away from home. There aren’t enough words to express how grateful I am for everyone and everything that has happened to get me to where I am today. The most difficult part about living with a rare neuroimmune disorder for me is its invisibility. Even though I was fortunate enough to return to school, I still faced significant academic and emotional challenges that required me to reach out to the student disability center for appropriate accommodations and counseling office for additional help. I also realize that the stress of critical illness on family is just as significant as for patients. Since I am currently a full-time student living hours away from home, I realize the importance of keeping my family updated as often as possible. My current goals, aside from performing well in school, are to visit Starbucks (my guilty pleasure) less often, be more physically active outdoors, and to most importantly make my unique journey more visible to others within the community in order to empower those who are going through what I did.
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