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1st Place – Kristy Herman

Accidents can happen in the blink of an eye and can affect victims as well as the lives of anyone that comes into contact with the victim. The scars that are left over from accidents are not just physical but emotional as well, and stress can manifest itself for years after the trauma occurs. This essay involves a boy named Tyler and explains how a car crash during his childhood has impacted his life as well as mine.

More than two decades have passed since the car crash that changed Tyler’s life. It was raining heavily, the driver lost control, and the car struck a concrete divider. He was airlifted to the hospital while his mother and sister suffered less life-threatening injuries and were transported by ambulance to another hospital. The doctors did not think he would make it. Hours of anticipation in the ER were followed by days in an induced coma. By the grace of God he was able to pull through. Once he regained consciousness he underwent reconstructive surgery to bring his face back to a recognizable state. After coming out of the anesthesia for that segment, his family could breathe a sigh of relief- he was going to live. The next blow came when the doctors said they did not think he would ever walk again but Tyler was determined. He and his father developed a plan to slowly make progress on a daily basis. He would lean on his dad to take walks to the bathroom, then around his hospital room, and eventually around the hospital. Eventually he was walking on his own. After weeks in the hospital he was finally released to go home with a copy of his x-rays to show off to his friends at school.

Life at school was a welcome relief but it came with its own tribulations. The medical staff was happily shocked to see that he regained full mental capacity despite suffering from immense head trauma. The surgeries he endured left him was a bald head and scars and so his school allowed him to wear a hat despite it being against the dress code. Teachers and classmates that were out of the loop about the crash gave him a difficult time because of it but still he carried on. He was bruised and weak but found solace in his academics and was able to progress into accelerated programs. His success was remarkable and he seemed to be able to achieve any goal he desired.

Unfortunately, due to the harsh blow to his system and the stress of fighting for his life, an autoimmune disease developed during his mid-teens. It started off as what seemed like a virus: nausea, diarrhea, fever, fatigue. Yet it lingered and Tyler was rapidly losing weight. He lost nearly 40 pounds and had to be pulled from school, too worn out to focus on his studies or sit through class. Numerous doctors were seen, several elimination diets were tried, bouts of medication were dispensed to no avail, and the disease went undiagnosed until a specialist recommended a colonoscopy. Biopsy results confirmed the presence of Crohn’s disease, a gastrointestinal disorder where the body attacks the lining of the intestines. A newly approved drug was prescribed and, miraculously, seemed to help! Weight was regained, eating became more enjoyable, and life was almost back to normal.

Sadly, normalcy can only last temporarily in Tyler’s world. Joint issues developed as a side effect of the medication, preventing him from being able to do things he enjoyed: weight lifting, playing guitar, and working on cars. Neurological issues also developed- seizures triggered by fluorescent lights and strange odors. Anti-seizure medication seemed to increase the frequency of seizure-like events and induced unwanted lethargy. The medication that treated the Crohn’s was discontinued due to remission of the disease and to try to prevent the unwanted side effects from impacting his life. Sadly, it was too late. More doctors were seen and consulted. Holistic doctors and chiropractic adjustments, along with hundreds of dollars of health supplements were the only hope for providing a moderately acceptable quality of life. Tyler was eventually able to get his bachelor’s degree in Biology but had to give up his dreams of becoming a doctor, engineer, or businessman.

Tyler’s story has impacted mine as we have been dating for nearly 7 years. We started dating when his Crohn’s disease was in remission and I learned more about the disease than I ever thought I wanted to know. His experiences encouraged me to consult a gastroenterologist when I was having intestinal issues; one of his doctors saved me from what could have progressed into cancer. He proposed to me in 2012, before his seizures started to become evident and prevent him from leading a normal life. I was looking forward to living a happy life with him- a hardworking, smart, energetic and humorous young man who could fix anything. Unfortunately, most of our time together is spent seeing doctors, taking short trips to enjoy watching wildlife, or staying home listening to music and watching television. The cost of his medical care is enormous and I do not see how I can be a sole provider for him if we plan on getting married. I am enrolled in MSU’s CVM class of 2021 and I hope to become a successful veterinarian yet I constantly worry about his health.

I am hoping that this essay can help me to pay for some of my tuition while also sharing Tyler’s story to anyone who thinks that all hope is lost. I do believe Tyler can eventually overcome what he is suffering with now, but it is a question of how long that will take. He has escaped the clutches of death on numerous occasions and refuses to give in to drugs, alcohol or suicide as an escape. A newfound appreciation for religion and exploring his spirituality seems to be making a positive difference in his life and I believe this calling might help him be able to be successful in his own right. I often wonder what his life would be like now if he was not involved in his childhood car crash but I think it is more helpful to look ahead to new possibilities and make every day count.