Winter/ Spring 2020 iVein® Health and Wellness Scholarship Winner

Twice a year we award a student the iVein® Health and Wellness Scholarship. Students must write an essay that promotes a practical approach to a healthy lifestyle in college and how these habits can be sustained over a lifetime.

This year’s Winter/ Spring scholarship was awarded to a student from University of Colorado Boulder. Here is the winning essay:

My senior year of high school altered the course of my life and ultimately steered me towards a healthier lifestyle. My year began with a familiar routine, volleyball practice everyday after school, college applications in the evenings, and time with friends when possible. The day of my volleyball senior recognition celebration changed everything. It was early in the day when I first understood that something was wrong, I heard a sharp ringing in my right ear and when I tried to describe what I was feeling, my words came out slurred. I stood up to walk towards the nurse’s office and quickly realized that the whole right side of my body was affected and I could not walk straight. With a friend on each side of me, we made our way across campus. My dad arrived and we drove to the emergency room. After a myriad of tests and a night in the ER, I was admitted to the hospital. I had suffered a vertebral artery dissection, a stroke. I spent five days in the hospital’s ICU, hooked up to various monitors and beeping devices, while med students and residents cycled through to evaluate a rarity — a seventeen year-old stroke victim,
with joint hypermobility and various other curious anomalies. The consensus was that the stroke had likely been caused by a chiropractic manipulation of my neck the day before. I underwent intensive speech, occupational, and physical therapy for 3 weeks to teach my brain to compensate for the affected parts. I regained my physical strength and returned to school, working closely with a counselor to catch up. That fall, I applied to university and focused on healing.

Over winter break I caught a bad cold, and couldn’t seem to shake it. I had no energy to do the things I was just getting back into. After a long-awaited cardiologist appointment, I was diagnosed with dysautonomia, an autonomic nervous system disorder. My dysautonomia manifested in improper regulation of my heart rate and blood pressure. Treatment included radically increasing hydration and salt, and regular cardio exercise.

Ultimate frisbee season was starting up and I decided to play. I forced myself to go to the workouts and practices, and once I settled into that routine I began to feel better. The first out of town ultimate tournament rolled around and I was running down the field to catch a disc with a defender close on me, feeling alive again. I jumped and grabbed the disc, but as I landed something popped in my knee and I collapsed to the ground. I had torn my ACL.

I worked hard at physical therapy and walked across the stage at graduation the following month. I began to look forward to my weekly physical therapy sessions, the improvement made each week was incredibly encouraging to me.

My experience throughout the year encouraged me to develop a regular workout regimen and working out became a habit. While I had an unbelievably challenging year healthwise, I have come out of it stronger and more resilient than ever.

College is what you make of it and the freedom may seem daunting at first but you must take the initiative to structure your days productively. Finding the motivation and time to workout is generally the biggest roadblock for college students. Most universities offer at least one recreation center, fully equipped with more equipment than you could ever need. Going to the dining hall every day quickly becomes a routine for college students and if more students begin to workout every day, it will become ingrained in their routine. The tangible progress I made simply by being physically active was a catalyst for the establishment of my routine. With exercise as a part of my routine, I am taking big steps towards recovery from knee surgery and dysautonomia. I hope that working out remains a prominent aspect of my life as I strongly believe it is the key to my health and my happiness.

I am currently studying Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado Boulder with the intent to go on to Physical Therapy School, inspired by those who helped me back up each time I was knocked down. Since beginning university, I have been able to get back to the things I love while also studying subject matter with real applications to my life and the lives of so many around me. I have enjoyed several challenging hikes in the beautiful rocky mountains and plan to join the club volleyball team and start skiing when I am able. Until then, I am continually exercising in every other way I can. After this year, I have learned valuable lessons and nothing will keep me down or away from what I want. When things were looking bleak I was more motivated than ever to put in the work to get myself healthy again. It takes about 2 months to form a habit and once regular exercise becomes habitual, you can begin to live a healthier life and set yourself up for a healthier future.