Rachel’s Story

2021 Educational Enrichment Fund Scholar - Clarke University

Maddie was an adorable brown-eyed baby with a head full of dark hair. To me, her face was the most precious thing in the world and I paid no attention to the prominent birthmark that covered the left side of her face or her limited motor functions. However, as I matured, I began to recognize the unique circumstances Maddie endured. When I was younger, my family seemed to be introduced to a new doctor every week, and the talk of medication and surgery for Maddie was all that floated around the house. As eager as I was to fulfill my new role as a big sister, I had to quickly come to terms with the fact that Maddie has many special needs that affect her ability to participate in daily activities.

Maddie’s diagnosis of Sturge Weber Syndrome caused an abnormality in her brain which resulted in epileptic seizures. Her condition was unpredictable due to her unresponsiveness to medications. It was only until her hemispherectomy when she had a substantial reduction in the frequency of her seizures, but it did not cure the paralysis on the right side of her body or her impaired cognitive function. It was difficult to adapt to Maddie’s physical and mental limitations, but the exposure I had to a variety of different situations is responsible for shaping who I am today.

Maddie has conquered challenges and exceeded expectations since she was born. Today, as a sophomore in high school, she follows her own schedule independently, participates on the women’s volleyball team, and is a social butterfly who could be friends with anyone. Her perseverance has inspired me to be someone that never shies away when faced with adversity and constantly pushes themselves to reach their full potential. Most importantly, I have learned how crucial it is to treat everyone with kindness regardless of their physical appearance or special needs. After seeing how much it means to Maddie to be included by her peers in activities, I find myself approaching those who appear to be having a difficult time fitting in. I do this because I understand that everyone deserves to feel like they belong. Not only has Maddie’s life influenced who I am, but how I want to create a difference for those that experience challenges similar to Maddie’s.

Due to Maddie’s condition, I have become familiar with the world of physical therapy. To see how much her physical therapists positively impacted Maddie’s physical and emotional well-being, I knew this was the career path I wanted to pursue. Becoming a physical therapist opens doors for me to assist those recovering physically from epileptic injuries and improve their overall quality of life. My goal is to earn a Doctorate of Physical Therapy and receiving the scholarship for the Education Enrichment Fund would ease the financial burden that accompanies attending a four-year university and graduate school as well as give me the chance to use my passion to help the epilepsy community.


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