I have made my disability into a capability: Part 2 of 3

Contributed by: Dana Morningstar
Reviewed by: Evelyn Corsini, MSW, July, 2011

Dana is a 36 year old woman who lives in Georgia with her husband and their adopted baby boy. She has several medical conditions and has lived with chronic pain since she was a young child. In spite of these problems, Dana completed college and nursing training. Her personal story is presented in 3 parts.  It describes how she did not let her pain and disabilities stop her from setting and achieving her goals.
This is part two. 

A young adult with pain

I was able to take a trip to England and France with my high school senior class in 1993 after graduation. We did a lot of walking and hiking, and therefore we had to carry all of our belongings with us everywhere we went. My biggest concern was the migraines and the nausea and stomach problems. I thought it was because of the travel, the different foods and time change, and riding on buses, boats, and planes, etc.  I’m so glad, looking back, that I went on that trip.

I was accepted at the two different universities in St. Louis I had applied to and decided on the one. Even though I lived in the same city as the university, I received a scholarship with room and board, so I was going to stay in the dorms, and so was my long-time friend. Even though I lived close to home, I learned very quickly that I was on my own. When I was sick, I didn’t have my mom right there to take care of me. I had to learn how to take care of myself now. I was becoming a young adult!

Freshman year of college went by pretty quickly and wasn’t too bad. I started college at 85 pounds, and was still skinny like that through my freshman year.  The stomach problems got much worse, and all I would eat was cereal.  My back hurt, and I continued to get migraines. Then I began urinating pure blood! The pain was like nothing I ever felt. I was going to the ER all the time with painful urination, blood in my urine, and back pain. That is when the cycle started that I always would have red blood cells in my urine. I would get bladder infections, kidney infections. My white blood cell count would be low. I was a mess, but no one could figure out why. Then my sophomore year, I got mononucleosis again. This time was much worse than when I had it in high school. If I tried to get out of bed, I would get so sick to my stomach that I would vomit. I slept through my entire sophomore year! I passed it though. I didn’t have to retake any classes.

I ended up getting hospitalized my junior year of college with unexplained fevers and stomach pain. They could not figure out what was wrong with me. I also had pain in my joints. They discharged me with no diagnosis. They were so clueless. I ended up beginning to have all kinds of chemical and food sensitivities by my senior year of college. I began seeing an allergist. I was still having unexplained fevers, joint pains, stomach pains, and swollen glands.

Finally, I graduated and started working as a nurse. I had to have my physical for my first job. They told me I needed to follow up with my primary doctor because my blood pressure was running high. My blood pressure was indeed high. My doctor said she wanted to start me on a water pill. Every time I checked my blood pressure at home or at my next doctor appointment, my blood pressure was higher. Then, on one Easter Sunday afternoon, I was feeling completely “out of it”. My aunt, who is also a nurse, took my blood pressure. It was 250/180!  That is when the doctors put me on a stronger blood pressure medication and took me off my water pill. I was also sent to a nephrologist and a cardiologist.  No one ever figured out why my blood pressure was high. I was just diagnosed with primary hypertension, meaning that nothing is causing it.

In 1998 and in 2000, I had to have laparoscopies done for endometriosis. I began to think that maybe that was the stomach problems I had for years. I was put on an injectable drug that put me in menopause to keep the endometriosis from growing back. I was on the injection for a total of 22 months. I ended up never starting my period for six whole years, not until my ob/gyn put me on birth control. I’m not even really sure that my periods that I have now are real or hormone-induced from the birth control. I don’t know if I would really have a period without the birth control, and I’m not really willing to try it out just yet.

In 1999, I really started having severe joint pain. My knees, hips and shoulders were especially bothering me. My right hip began to click and pop a lot. I began having trouble walking up our back steps to get in our house. Sometimes the pain in my knees and hips would be so bad; it would stop me dead in my tracks! I went to my doctor, and he examined my head! Yes, he had my head examined! There were no lesions to make him think it was MS, so he sent me to a psychiatrist because he said it must be depression. Well, at this point, I actually was depressed because I wanted someone to tell me why I was having so much pain.

Dana maintains a blog (gavertarm2bambidextrous.blogspot.com) and hosts an online radio show (www.blogtalkradio.com/danamorningstar).

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