At the age of 5, my parents woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of my screams. My parents found me in the bathroom and saw the bloody mess I left behind in the toilet. They hurriedly drove me to the emergency room, and after a colonoscopy and some blood work, the doctors told u something that would change my life forever: I was diagnosed with von Willebrand’s disease (vWD).
Growing up with vWD has closed doors for me that neither my parents nor I ever dreamed could be closed. I was restricted from playing contact sports, taught to avoid dangerous situations at all costs, and extremely over-protected. I remember that I had an irrational fear of recess and the playground for the longest time, just because I was afraid of falling, skinning my knee and requiring immediate medical care. But after years and years of countless hospital visits, I slowly gained a comprehensive understanding of myself and my disorder. My doctors took the time to explain the ins and outs of my disease and empathetically helped me overcome my fear of physical exercise. If it hadn’t been for those excellent medical providers, I might have missed out on the physical, emotional and social development that young children experience through group play.
Jumping forward to these past four years at Ohio University, I have focused my time and energy into research related to exercise and fear. I have received multiple grants to conduct research, published multiple articles, and traveled to present my research findings at multiple conferences. i most recently traveled to Denver, CO in February 2020 to present at a conference of over 16,000 physical therapists. I use neuroimaging in my research to scan the brains of athletes with high and low fear to understand how their nervous systems generate movement. I believe my passion for research on exercise and fear stems directly from my experiences with vWD as a child and the research-based education I received from my healthcare providers. There experiences have shaped my career goals of becoming a clinician-scientist in physical therapy, because I want to pay forward the blessings I received as a child who was too afraid to play outside during recess because of my disorder, I want to help other children with stories similar to mine by conducting groundbreaking research in physical therapy that will alleviate the burden of fear of exercise for children with disorders.
As someone with a disorder, I have an intimate understanding of the impact of medical research. I see my experience with vWD as a blessing, rather than a curse, because it exposed me to medical research at such a young age. upon reflection of my life and my story, I believe there is a hidden message within: Everyone has limitations, but you don’t have to be stunted by them. Rather, you can be directed by them to find your niche. And my niche is physical therapy research.
Thank you for your consideration.