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Melanie Merrill, Mountain View HS, 2018 Awardee

Apr 24, 2018

When I was younger, I woke up with intense, awful pain in my knee and lower leg. I was unable to walk and my leg was discolored and swollen. My mom was concerned, so we sought the help of many doctors who told me nothing was wrong. We went from doctor to doctor, some of whom doubted my pain. It was so disheartening to have my pain discredited so nonchalantly. The pain continued to worsen, so I continued to see different doctors. Eventually we got into a specialist who diagnosed me with something called Reflex Neurovascular Dystrophy. This means there were excessive reactions in portions of my sympathetic nervous system, causing extreme pain and limited motion. The reason no one had been able to figure it out, is because it is an invisible illness and very difficult to diagnose.

Despite finally having an explanation for my pain, I became withdrawn, angry, depressed. I felt trapped in my immobility, and hated my crutches. I stayed inside all day, slept the weeks away and felt sorry for myself.

But thanks to a supportive and loving family, I gained the motivation to get better. I started physical therapy, which was intense and difficult. I was frustrated because I had to learn how to walk again. Most appointments would end in tears, but with my goal of walking again in sight, I pressed forward with determination. I wanted to be independent, and to get through it. A few months later I began to walk unassisted, and I eventually was able to run. I can still my remember the day I took my very first step. My mom cried, and my physical therapist cheered.

Today, I can look upon this challenge and draw strength from it. I learned of my resilience and what I am capable of. Because of it, I have felt so much more prepared to continue to go through trials. Goal setting became a very important way of overcoming hard things and still is in my life. I continue to set goals for my life and education.

Since, I have developed an incredible empathy for others who have experienced or are currently experiencing invisible illnesses. In college, I plan to major in nursing. In the field I hope to someday work with kids with RND or other illnesses.

To anyone struggling with feelings of hopelessness; never give up. Something my mom told me during a painful appointment was, “this isn’t going to last forever.” and it didn’t. That sentence kept me going, and still does. I believe the trials and sorrows will eventually pass over us, but we will remain constant. Choose what attitude and outlook you are constant in. Reach out, get help, and never give up.

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