Abby, 22

Everyone always notices the smile that I have and never ceases to mention it. What most people do not know is that there were many battles that smile was put through. There were times when that smile was nothing short of proof of the courage I had.

I was born six weeks early (I was actually due on April fool’s Day!). I had only been a few hours old when I was flown to Seattle where I would spend the next six months at Seattle Children’s Hospital enduring many surgeries. I had multiple shunt revisions and also had surgeries to repair my esophagus. I had Esophageal Atresia. This is where my Esophagus was formed in my Trachea. I had to have a feeding tube put in to help me eat. I would have that for the next 16 years.

After six months I was able to return back home to Montana with my parents and siblings. I would drive back and forth to Seattle for appointments for the next few years. Our family was incredibly blessed to have an amazing support system. My large extended family all pitched in and not only came out to spend time with me but, came and helped with my siblings so my parents could be with me in Seattle and back home.

My hydrocephalus led to many other problems such as issues with balance and headaches. I would see a Physical Therapist (Luckily for me, my mom was a PT before I was born!) as well as an OT (Occupational Therapist) to help with my motor skills. I had to learn how to crawl and walk at a slower rate than most.

My first revision that I can remember was in the third grade. I woke up with a really bad headache and began to vomit. For me, vomiting as seldom as I did, was an indication that my shunt was malfunctioning. My mom took me to the hospital and I had surgery that day. I got to wear a hat the whole next week to school! I remember all my classmates asking about what was going on. I had my second revision in eighth grade,

I had an amazing high school experience. I was involved in many activities and I was even part of the junior and senior royalty for both Prom and Homecoming. I had an amazing class with, lots of friends who always had my back. My advice to you is that you find people who accept you and forge the rest.

My proudest venture in my life so far has been starting my own business. In July of this year I started an amazing journey with Younique. Younique is a makeup-based company that helps empower women. I was so excited to join because as a kid, I had always wanted to own my own business. I hope to inspire many women along the way!

Although life can be challenging, I feel very blessed to be where I am. I am currently enrolled at The University of Montana and have just been accepted into the Elementary Education program. However, I still struggle with hydrocephalus-related issues. For example, I continue to have headaches and balance problems and I see my PT once a week. I also cannot not ride a bike or drive a car due to my balance and some anxiety. This is also a battle (one of embarrassment) that I have had to overcome.

In sharing my story, I hope to empower and inspire you to smile through your trials, whether they be with hydrocephalus or any other challenges that you may face. You are only given one life and it is up to you and you only to make it count!


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