180 Medical is continuing our annual tradition by honoring each one of our seven 2019 scholarship recipients as we gear up for all the new applicants in 2020. So far, we’ve featured Ben, Lauren, Ryan, Madison, and Harrison. Now, we’re excited to recognize Anissa, a scholarship recipient who overcame a hard battle with Transverse Myelitis!
Anissa’s Unexpected Illness in the Middle of College
Anissa was looking forward to a whole new world of adventure and academics as she began her first year of college at Southern Utah University in August 2017. She loved every moment of her life in college. “Taking college-level courses was difficult, as expected, but I sacrificed my time, worked hard, and earned A’s in all my classes,” she says. Plus, she made fast friends and participated in fun outings like school camping trips through her university’s Jumpstart program.
However, she never expected to be fighting for her life by the spring semester. Anissa began feeling like she was coming down with the flu. First, she went to a physician who prescribed medication and rest, but her symptoms wouldn’t improve.
Unfortunately, her condition kept worsening until she became delirious and unable to move. She doesn’t remember much, but her parents were with her the whole time as she spent 35 nights as a patient at Utah Valley Hospital.
Battling Transverse Myelitis
During those days at the hospital, the doctors couldn’t fully understand what was happening to Anissa or why her body was shutting down. The lower half of her body had no more control or movement. At first, meningitis was their best guess, although her symptoms didn’t fully match that diagnosis.
Eventually, her doctors ordered multiple MRIS, which revealed incredible amounts of inflammation up and down her spine. Her severe pain, fever, and paralyzation had been caused by a viral infection that passed through the blood-brain barrier. Finally, they understood what had happened to Anissa: Transverse Myelitis (TM). Transverse Myelitis is an inflammation of the spinal cord, which can damage nerves, causing paralyzation, pain, weakness, bladder and bowel incontinence, and other symptoms.
Anissa had to undergo aggressive medical treatments and took steroids to relieve the swelling. Once her condition finally began to improve, the doctors said it was time to move on to rehabilitation therapy.
Learning to Walk Again After Transverse Myelitis
Before Anissa got sick, her mom had bought tickets to see the Broadway play “Hamilton” in Salt Lake City on April 20th. She wanted to see that musical so much that it became one of her top motivations.
While she was in rehabilitation therapy for Transverse Myelitis, every single day was a new challenge. At first, her physical therapists helped her stretch her legs and roll from side to side. Soon, she was able to sit on the edge of her bed on her own.
Anissa remembers the time she was able to stand up for the first time since the illness had taken away her mobility. “I whispered to my therapist, ‘I want to hug my mom.’ So my therapist helped me stand up again and told my mom I wanted a proper hug. We just held each other and wept.”
Then, on April 18th, Anissa finally left the Neurotrauma Rehabilitation Center, and she met her goal of attending “Hamilton” with her family.
Rehabilitation, of course, continued. At first, she primarily relied on a wheelchair for long distances and crutches for short distances. Later, with more physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy, Anissa’s body became stronger. Originally, her doctors assumed she’d never walk again. Today, Anissa can walk normally. “No stranger looking at me would guess I was once paralyzed,” she says.
How Transverse Myelitis Changed This Scholarship Recipient’s Career Path
Anissa’s experience was life-changing. Not only does she still experience some issues with memory and speech, but she’s also had to retrain her body due to the tremendous effects of this rare illness known as Transverse Myelitis. Anissa says that her illness also made her rethink her original career plans.
“Prior to getting sick, I planned to study early childhood education and eventually open my own preschool,” she says. “However, near-death experiences have a funny way of making you reevaluate your life. My nurses, doctors, technicians, and therapists made an irreplaceable difference in my recovery. I am so grateful for them, and I want to pay it forward. I have decided to declare my major as nursing.”
As a recipient of the 180 Medical College Scholarship in 2019, Anissa is working hard on her new career dreams at Southern Utah University.
At 180 Medical, we can’t say enough how much we appreciate everything nurses do every day to take care of their patients. We often see firsthand how their compassionate care can change lives, and we’re excited for Anissa as she moves forward in her new career path.
About 180 Medical’s Scholarship Program
We’re still accepting scholarship applications for this year’s 180 Medical College Scholarship Program until June 1st! You can find out more and download an application on our official Scholarship page.
Our annual scholarship opportunity is available to full-time college students who are seeking one of the following:
- Spinal cord injury scholarship
- Spina bifida scholarship
- Neurogenic bladder scholarship
- Ostomy scholarship (for those with a colostomy, ileostomy, or urostomy)
- Transverse myelitis scholarship