Since the 180 Medical College Scholarship Program first began in 2012, we’ve offered 7 scholarship awards yearly to eligible students nationwide living with conditions like spina bifida, spinal cord injuries, neurogenic bladder, transverse myelitis, and/or an ostomy. It’s one of the ways we love to give back. Plus, it’s an investment in the futures of students who want to make a positive impact through their career plans.
We have an annual tradition of individually celebrating each recipient on our blog, which we’ve continued with the scholarship recipients of 2019. Be sure to check out our earlier posts for Ben, Lauren, Ryan, and Madison.
Now, we’d love for you to meet Harrison, a young man who has faced serious challenges and also found his true passion due to living with spina bifida.
Harrison’s Early Life with Spina Bifida
Harrison was one of the approximately 1,500 to 2,000 babies born annually in the United States with spina bifida. He could’ve been completely paralyzed due to this condition, although a protective lipoma (lump of fat cells) covered the base of his spine at birth.
Because of that, “my mom says my life started out lucky,” Harrison wrote in his essay. Despite some big challenges along the way so far, he says, “I think I would have to agree.”
His optimism and determination along with the unfailing love and support of his parents are what he credits for being where he is today. Without those key things, it could’ve been much harder to overcome some of the major hurdles that came with his spina bifida diagnosis. For example, since he was only 9 weeks old, Harrison has had 27 total surgeries.
Even though he had to use leg braces and spent a lot of time in the hospital, he never really thought of himself as different from other kids his age. He just knew he couldn’t do certain activities the way others could.
Spina Bifida Complications and Challenges
Despite some physical limitations due to spina bifida, Harrison discovered a passion for baseball. Once he started playing at 7 years old, he realized he had a natural talent for the game.
Playing baseball required Harrison to be on his feet for hours at a time for practices and games, and he played for 7 years as a first baseman and left-handed pitcher. Unfortunately, during his freshman year, a terrible pressure sore developed on his foot. The doctors determined that his leg brace, which he requires due to complications from spina bifida, had likely caused the sore.
This sore worsened into a bone infection (osteomyelitis). Harrison never imagined that living with spina bifida could lead to fighting a serious infection for 2 whole years. He went through multiple surgeries and IV-fed antibiotics to save his limb and his life. Thankfully, his parents were there for him through it all.
Despite this incredible hardship, Harrison worked hard to stay an honors student.
However, behind the smile, Harrison was battling some hard feelings and a sense of loss about his baseball career. It was a huge blow for him. He wasn’t sure what else he could love as much as baseball.
A New Interest Helped Harrison Regain Confidence
As Harrison began to heal, he had long talks with his mom about his future. He knew he was meant to use his talents to help others, but he wasn’t sure how.
In school, he decided to join DECA, a competitive club for future business professionals, where he discovered he had a natural talent for marketing. Thanks to his involvement in DECA, Harrison grew more confident.
Next, in his senior year of high school, Harrison took on the role of public relations manager for a Block Out Cancer fundraiser, which raised over $20,000 for C.S. Mott’s Children’s Hospital. Through this experience, Harrison began to see that he could be successful at much more than just baseball.
How Spina Bifida Plays Into His Future Plans
Harrison’s experience of living with the ups and downs of spina bifida led him to want to help other children with similar medical conditions. This ambition, combined with his love of sports and talent for business, led him to decide on his dream career.
Today, after accepting 1 of our 7 2019 180 Medical College Scholarship awards, Harrison is attending school at Central Michigan University. Currently, he’s working toward a Marketing degree with a minor in Sports Promotion. After he graduates, he hopes to work for a major sports team where he can “promote athletics for children who are differently-abled like me,” he says.
We’re sure he’s going to make a positive impact on many lives in the future, thanks to his talent, compassion, and optimism in the face of hardship.
About 180 Medical’s Scholarship Program
We are now accepting scholarship applications for the 2020 180 Medical College Scholarship Program. Learn more at www.180medical.com/scholarships.
Recently, we also announced the inception of a new scholarship program for caregivers. College students who are unpaid caregivers for a family member or loved one with a chronic medical condition may apply. We encourage you to get more details by visiting our 2020 Ron Howell Caregiver College Scholarship page.