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Heidi Overcame Hurdles to Advocate for Those with Disabilities

by Jessica April 20 2018 06:25
meet heidi scholarship recipient 180 medical

Last fall, we were excited to announce the 2017 180 Medical College Scholarship recipients. All of the applicants' essays were incredibly moving, and our seven finalists were certainly no exception!

Take a moment to get to know our previously featured recipients: 
MeghaFrankChelseaJoseph, and Elizabeth.

Today, we'd love for you to meet Heidi!


180 medical scholarship recipient heidi 2017 quote


Educating & Advocating for the Disabled

While Heidi goes to school to further her education, she works as an Adult Basic Educator and helps adults improve their basic skills in math, reading, and even with American Sign Language.

As a deaf and disabled woman who is a Disabilities Advocate, Heidi also has the amazing opportunity to help adults and children living with disabilities. She uses dolls that have been fitted with MIC-KEY buttons (a low-profile feeding tube) and colostomy stomas in order to help familiarize children who may be new to living with a feeding tube or an ostomy.

But if you had asked her twenty years ago what she would be doing with her life, she would never have imagined that things would turn out quite the way they have.


heidi and ostomy dolls for childrenHeidi with some of the educational tools and dolls that she uses to help familiarize children with their condition and normalize living with an ostomy and/or a feeding tube 


Unexpected Illness & Loss Changed Everything

Before Heidi got started on her current career path, she earned degrees in Nursing as well as Music Education. For many years, she worked as a Developmental Nurse Educator.

helping disabled kidsHeidi says, "I provided families with the tools necessary to gently shape their precious children's global development, while also sharing in the celebration of successes, comforting them in times of grief, acknowledging their fears, validating their hopes, and empowering them to advocate for their children." Her profession, at the time, truly fed her soul and allowed her to use her experiences, education, and gifts in helping others.

But then, everything changed. Originally, Heidi had been diagnosed with MS (Multiple Sclerosis) for many years. Then she found out that the original diagnosis was incorrect; she had inherited Mitochondrial Myopathy. 

Mitochondrial Myopathy, according to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, affects the cells of the body and can cause "both muscular and neurological effects" like:

  • Weakened muscles
  • Hearing loss / deafness
  • Balance issues
  • Seizures
  • Learning deficits
Around this time, her youngest child tragically passed away due to a severe neurological disease. Then she had to battle a form of drug-resistant pneumonia that caused multiple complications for Heidi. The worst was anticipated, and she was put into hospice care. 

However, Heidi says, "I had more work to do."


Using Her Experience to Help Others

sign language heartTo everyone's astonishment, including her doctors, Heidi worked hard to get her strength back. She made it through her illness and eventually returned to school to major in Deaf Studies. 

It wasn't long after this that she began her role as an Adult Basic Educator and tutored students who were "disadvantaged by disability, poverty, and inadequate social and educational support." 

Today, Heidi is working toward earning her Master's degree in Higher Education, and she hopes to create a more accessible educational program for these students. 

It's truly amazing to see someone who has gone through so much and is still so eager to keep moving forward and aid other people in need of a helping hand.

We wish Heidi the best of luck and blessings as she moves forward with her career plans and continues to use her personal experience to comfort those living with disabilities or families dealing with losses of their own. 


About the 180 Medical Scholarship

We understand that college isn't easy to afford for many students, and it can be especially difficult for those living with conditions like spinal cord injuries, spina bifida, transverse myelitis, neurogenic bladder, and/or an ostomy (ileostomy, urostomy, or colostomy). That's why 180 Medical established a scholarship program to help those students who are determined to keep working hard to achieving their goals and dreams.

Currently through June 1, 2018, 180 Medical is accepting applications for our 2018 scholarship program. You can find full information, eligibility requirements, and download an application at www.180medical.com/scholarships.


180 medical scholarship program for ostomy sci spina bifida



About the Author:

Jessica has worked for 180 Medical for 8 years and is the Purchasing & Marketing Coordinator. Her favorite things about 180 Medical are her great co-workers and getting to work for a company that truly cares both for its employees and its customers.


 

Elizabeth is Determined to Win the Daily Battle Against Her Disability

by Jessica March 14 2018 06:27
elizabeth 2017 scholarship recipient

Earlier this year, we were proud to announce the seven 2017 180 Medical College Scholarship recipients. This year's group of applicants and especially the 2017 recipients are truly inspiring and are living proof of overcoming odds to achieve dreams, so we love getting to let you know more about these bright students and their career goals.

So far, we've introduced you to four of our seven recipients: MeghaFrankChelsea, and Joseph. We're excited to introduce you to Elizabeth today!


elizabeth inspirational disability quote


Facing the Challenges of Cerebral Palsy

From the start, Elizabeth was extraordinary. She was born two months premature in a set of quadruplet girls. 

For over a year, everything seemed normal, until Elizabeth's parents realized she wasn't sitting up on her own and couldn't crawl or walk like her sisters.

The doctors diagnosed her with Cerebral Palsy, which is a condition caused by a lack of oxygen to an infant's brain (asphyxia) during childbirth. There are multiple complications and symptoms that can arise from a condition like Cerebral Palsy, and it's rarely the same for each person affected. Some of the potential symptoms of cerebral palsy may include:

  • Muscle tone variation
  • Seizures and/or tremors
  • Difficult with walking or unusual gait
  • Difficulty with coordination and motor skills
  • Delays in speech development
  • Neurogenic bladder or urinary incontinence
  • Delayed development
Elizabeth has now lived with Cerebral Palsy for almost 24 years, and for her, the condition affects her whole body and many other aspects of her life.

"Thankfully," she says, "I do not have to face this challenge alone."


Finding Joy in Family, Sports, & School

elizabeth at homecomingElizabeth's family has been with her every step of the way since her birth. Although living with Cerebral Palsy does make her somewhat dependent on her family for her daily care, they state that "the joys and opportunities that have come through sharing life with [Elizabeth] far outweigh any sacrifices."

One joy that Elizabeth found at just eight years old is Paralympic Boccia. She found the challenges of the sport perfect for a competitive outlet, and Boccia is perfect for her physical abilities.

Even today, Elizabeth is still actively participating in Boccia, and she competed in the 2017 National Championships most recently.

"I also co-chair the Youth Development Taskforce for Boccia's national organization, USA Boccia. The Taskforce's vision is to expand youth participation in Boccia at the regional and national level," Elizabeth states. 

Despite her condition and her avid participation in Boccia, she worked hard in school, made excellent grades, and graduated from John Brown University with her Bachelor's degree in Child and Family Studies. Her time in college strengthened her passion to help others, particularly at the policy level of social work. 

During her time at school, she finally got to experience living apart from her family and having assisting staff for her daily care and needs, which was another step toward the independence that Elizabeth craves, although she is grateful beyond words for her family's unending support. 


Working To Become a Leader in Social Change

Currently, Elizabeth is now completing her Master's Degree in Social Work at the University of Illinois, and she is beyond thrilled to be able to start on this new adventure and continue her preparations for her career through higher education. 

She plans to concentrate on Leadership and Social Change. When talking about why she chose this field, Elizabeth is excited and hopeful. 

"I value social work, because it is an opportunity to truly meet people where they are and empower them to fulfill their potential by offering new skills and resources. With my degree, I seek to impact the disability service system in our country, advocating for the dignity and well-being of all people across the spectrum of ability," Elizabeth says. 

Even though Elizabeth faces a daily battle, she says she refuses to allow Cerebral Palsy to become a prison or limit her in any way. She is determined to use her own experiences to make a difference in others' lives. 


elizabeth motivational quote 180 medical scholarship recipient 2017


We are all certain that with her drive and dedication, she will go far in improving the lives of others living with disabilities, and we wish her the best of luck in her future goals!


About the 180 Medical Scholarship

College isn't always easy to afford, and we know that there can often be extra financial hardship heaped on students who live with conditions like spinal cord injuries, spina bifida, transverse myelitis, neurogenic bladder, and/or an ostomy (ileostomy, urostomy, or colostomy). That's why 180 Medical established a scholarship program to help those aspiring students work toward achieving their dreams.

We're accepting applications for the 2018 180 Medical College Scholarship Program now through June 1, 2018! You can download an application and get full information at www.180medical.com/scholarships.


180 medical scholarship program for ostomy sci spina bifida



About the Author:

Jessica has worked for 180 Medical for 8 years and is the Purchasing & Marketing Coordinator. Her favorite things about 180 Medical are her great co-workers and getting to work for a company that truly cares both for its employees and its customers.


 

Joseph Defied the Odds After His SCI to Walk Again

by Jessica January 24 2018 06:17
joseph stokes 180 medical scholarship recipients 2017

Earlier this year, we were proud to announce the seven 2017 180 Medical College Scholarship recipients. All of this year's recipients are so inspiring, and we're excited to let you know more about these bright students and their career goals.

Previously, we've introduced you to three of our seven recipients: MeghaFrank, and Chelsea. Today, get to know Joseph! 


joseph stokes 2017 scholarship


"Your Son Will Never Walk Again."

For Joseph Stokes, life has been all about sports and physical activity since as early as he can remember. He started playing t-ball at age four, and soon after that, he got into baseball and football. By high school, he was playing as a wide receiver. 

stokes and football teamJoseph was a regular fixture at every game, and he never missed a chance to be on the playing field. In the meantime, he worked hard to maintain his grades in the hope that one day he would play for a college football team when he graduated in 2017. 

But in November of 2015, Joseph's life changed forever when he was involved in a car accident on the way to school that resulted in an incomplete T-12 spinal cord injury.

He was rushed into surgery as soon as possible, during which two rods and eight screws were placed in his back. After the surgery, the doctors came out to let his parents know that the surgery was a success, but that Joseph would never walk again. 


A Special Visitor Helps to Inspire

When Joseph finally woke up, hearing his prognosis made him feel like the world was crumbling around him. He was discouraged, and it was hard seeing his loved ones so upset and concerned for him. Still, his friends, family, teammates, and his pastor often came by for visits, even after Joseph moved to the Shepherd Center to start his rehabilitation.

It was incredibly encouraging to know that his entire community had committed to support him and his family, even though he knew that there was a long, hard struggle ahead of him. 

Then one day, a spinal cord-injured motivational speaker named Bobby Ryals came to visit Joseph. As Bobby talked with him and demonstrated all he could still do while in a wheelchair, Joseph sat and listened. He watched as Bobby demonstrated the things he could still do in a wheelchair, and he began to grow more and more encouraged.

He began to feel like there was still a plan for him, and that's when he began to pray for a new path in life.


Turning Adversity into Achievement

Back when he first arrived at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia, he was brought in while lying flat on his back on a stretcher. The many weeks of rehab were a struggle, but he maintained his faith and worked hard.

Although he still had to use a wheelchair occasionally, by the time he left the rehabilitation center to go home, he walked out with a cane.


joseph stokes senior pic scholarship recipient

Although he didn't stop going to games to support his teammates, it was an incredibly hard change to be off the field and on the sidelines rather than being in the middle of the action as a wide receiver. Joseph said, "My dreams were shattered...but I knew God had other plans for me."

He decided he wanted to do everything he could to help others, so he began doing volunteer work with various organizations in and outside of his community. Today, he continues to volunteer, and he has also become a peer mentor to others with spinal cord injuries. 

Since then, he has chosen a career path toward Exercise Physiology. Eventually, he hopes to work with Paralympic athletes.

Joseph, we're inspired by your courage and determination, and we wish you all the best on your journey through college.

About the 180 Medical Scholarship

College isn't always easy to afford, and we know that there can often be extra financial hardship heaped on students who live with conditions like spinal cord injuries, spina bifida, ostomies (ileostomy, urostomy, and/or colostomy), transverse myelitis, and neurogenic bladder. That's why 180 Medical established a scholarship program to help those aspiring students work toward achieving their dreams.

We're accepting applications for the 2018 180 Medical College Scholarship Program now through June 1, 2018! Download an application and get full information at www.180medical.com/scholarships.

180 medical scholarship program for ostomy sci spina bifida

About the Author:

Jessica has worked for 180 Medical for 8 years and is the Purchasing & Marketing Coordinator. Her favorite things about 180 Medical are her great co-workers and getting to work for a company that truly cares both for its employees and its customers.

 

Crohn's Ignited Chelsea's Creative Spark

by Jessica December 7 2017 08:47
meet chelsea 180 medical scholarship 2017

Earlier this year, we were proud to announce the seven 2017 180 Medical College Scholarship recipients. All of this year's recipients are so inspiring, and we're excited to let you know more about these bright students and their career goals.

Previously, we've introduced you to Megha and Frank, two of our seven recipients. Today, meet Chelsea! 

chelsea fisk quote 180 medical scholarship recipient

Crohn's Disease Changed Everything

Crohn's disease, a form of IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease), is currently considered incurable, and it can often be so severe that it drastically reduces the quality of life for those afflicted. You can learn more about Crohn's disease and its symptoms with our recent blog post about Crohn's and Colitis Awareness Week.

Before Chelsea started to get sick, her goal was to be a surgeon who would work on patients with cancer and other disorders. In fact, as she first started out in college, she chose to continue to work toward that goal. Soon, however, she realized that her illness was so severe that she would likely not be able to keep up with such a demanding career. "Coming to terms with losing that dream was incredibly difficult for me," Chelsea says.

There would be more challenges before she would see the light ahead. During finals in her sophomore year of college, she had a major relapse with Crohn's disease, and the situation became so severe that she and her doctors came to the conclusion that medication was not going to be enough of a treatment plan for her. So Chelsea underwent a procedure to remove her colon and have an ileostomy created. 

A Turning Point After Ostomy Surgery

As Chelsea recovered and adapted to the new changes, she spent time thinking about what else she could do in the future. During that time, she went back to her childhood hobbies of reading, drawing, painting, and creating other types of art. 

"I began to realize that I should be pursuing the things I had loved as a child, what I had wanted to do before I even knew what biochemistry was," Chelsea says. With that in mind, Chelsea returned to school, enrolled in new coursework, and changed her major to graphic design. 


chelsea art school

Using Art to Increase Representation of the Disabled

As she continued to adjust to life with an ostomy, Chelsea found that there wasn't much information out there about ostomies specifically targeted to children, teens, and young adults. 

"I've experienced firsthand how the lack of representation for disabled kids and teens can negatively affect one's life," Chelsea says. "In an aim to fill this representational void, I create art and media (animation and comics, but mostly illustrated children's books) to help them make sense of their situation. I also use characters with traits and personalities that extend beyond their disabilities."

Chelsea wants those living with disabilities and chronic illnesses to know that they don't have to be defined solely by their condition, and she hopes that her work will help increase representation with them as well as other underrepresented communities of people.

Upon hearing that she was a recipient of this year's 180 Medical College Scholarship, Chelsea honored us with an absolutely beautiful drawing of a bird called a swift, surrounded by laurels with the following message:

"Swifts are notoriously strong and fast birds, small and often underestimated but very powerful. It, along with the laurel, represents the strength and power of my fellow scholarship recipients and all disabled youth. Our strength may be underestimated at times, but we will always persevere despite our hardships and come out on top, wearing laurels of our own."


chelsea fisk art swift and laurels

Truly, we feel so humbled to receive such an inspiring and lovely gift along with such an incredible message. Chelsea, we're sure you're going to go far in life, and we can't wait to see how your art positively impacts the world!

About the 180 Medical Scholarship

College isn't always easy to afford, and we know there are often additional financial burdens on aspiring students who live with medical conditions like spinal cord injuries, spina bifida, ostomies (ileostomy, urostomy, and/or colostomy), transverse myelitis, and neurogenic bladder. That's why 180 Medical created our scholarship program, and we're honored to offer this annually.

Find out more details at our Scholarship page, and watch for coming announcements about the 2018 180 Medical College Scholarship soon.

180 medical scholarship program for ostomy sci spina bifida

About the Author:

Jessica has worked for 180 Medical for 8 years and is the Purchasing & Marketing Coordinator. Her favorite things about 180 Medical are her great co-workers and getting to work for a company that truly cares both for its employees and its customers.

 

Spina Bifida Won't Stop Frank's Goals to Become a Phys Ed Teacher

by Jessica November 3 2017 13:53


Earlier this year, we were proud to announce the seven 2017 180 Medical College Scholarship recipients. Our scholarship program was first established by 180 Medical's founder, Todd Brown, and since that time five years ago, we have worked hard to maintain his vision by being diligent and careful as we read through all the many inspiring essays and applications sent in each year. It's never easy to narrow it down to just seven finalists, but we're positive this year's scholarship awards are awarded to some amazing students who are ready to make their mark on the world.

Last month, we introduced the first of our 2017 recipients, Megha. This week, meet Frank! 

frank damiani spina bifida career goals quote

Growing Up With Spina Bifida

Frank has had a lot of battles to fight since the day he was born with Spina Bifida. From the moment he arrived in the world, he needed immediate surgery on the sac on his back and the exposed muscles and nerves of his spine, but Frank says his mother has been there for him every step of the way as a big motivator.

"My mom worked hard to help my disability become a way of life and not a big deal." She was even the reason he originally got involved in his true passion: Shotokan Karate back in 2007.

Finding a Passion for Martial Arts

The karate instructor speaks incredibly highly of Frank in regards to his extraordinary character and his "overwhelming desire to learn and expand his knowledge by participating in any extracurricular events, such as clinics or tournaments that may aid in his growth as both an individual and a Martial Artist."

Every day, whether at school or practicing karate, he shows a passion and spirit that not many can match, and because of his dedication to his practice, Frank is now a black belt and still practices this form of martial arts at least four times a week. He says that it is a huge part of why he felt he was able to grow stronger and become self-disciplined. 

One of his favorite things to do is volunteer to mentor younger students where he practices karate. His extraordinary kindness, willingness to listen, and patience what really stand out about Frank to the children he teaches who may have special needs or disabilities. According to his karate instructor, "Frank is loved and respected by all of the students and parents with whom he comes into contact, likely because he gives all of himself to assisting his classmates and has a true passion for whatever goals he pursues." 

frank karate spina bifidaNeedless to say, we here at 180 Medical are truly impressed by Frank's dedication. He's a student that represents so many aspects of the characteristics our company aspires to achieve every day in what we do through his compassion, integrity, and his willingness to serve others. 

Turning a Passion into a Career

In fact, that is a big part of Frank's ultimate career goal, which he is working toward now at Kingsborough Community College. He is working toward becoming a Physical Education teacher for the Department of Education, and he wants to work with children with Spina Bifida, spinal cord injuries, and other physical challenges that keep them from being able to attend regular gym class in school. 

Frank says, "I love being a role model to younger students. It makes me feel good, and I believe teaching will give me the same satisfaction."

Frank, everyone at 180 Medical is rooting for you to keep moving forward toward achieving your goals. We know that thanks to your dedication and kindness, you will surely positively affect other children by showing them that sports and physical activities don't have to be off limits just because of a disability or a physical challenge. Good luck in your first semester of school! 

About the 180 Medical Scholarship

We hope you enjoy reading a little bit about each of this year's scholarship recipients throughout the coming months as we feature them on our blog and our social media accounts. Feel free to check out past year's recipients on our blog. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter to stay updated on this and many more fun company events, educational topics, awareness, careers at 180 Medical, and more! 

180 Medical is honored to be able to offer a scholarship program each year to help students living with spinal cord injuries, spina bifida, transverse myelitis, ostomies (ileostomy, urostomy, and/or colostomy), and/or a neurogenic bladder. College costs are a lot to manage on their own, but we know there are often extra financial burdens on aspiring students who live with these medical conditions, so that's why 180 Medical created this program.

Find out more details at our Scholarship page, and watch for coming announcements about the 2018 180 Medical College Scholarship later this year.

2018 college scholarship sci spina bifida

About the Author:

Jessica has worked for 180 Medical for 8 years and is the Purchasing & Marketing Coordinator. Her favorite things about 180 Medical are her great co-workers and getting to work for a company that truly cares both for its employees and its customers.

 

Megha's Experience with Spina Bifida Influences Her Future Goals

by Jessica October 11 2017 05:50
meet megha 2017 180 medical scholarship recipient

On August 1st, we officially announced the seven 2017 180 Medical College Scholarship recipients. Since 2012, when our scholarship program was first established by our founder, Todd Brown, we have been diligent in taking care and time to read through all of the amazing essays sent in by our applicants. As always, it was difficult for our Scholarship Committee to narrow it down to just seven people in the end, as there are so many inspiring students ready to make their impact on the world, but we are so proud to be able to offer this well-deserved scholarship award to the finalists.

Today, meet Megha, the first of our 2017 recipients to be featured on our blog!

megha kalyan spina bifida scholarship

Megha was born with Spina Bifida, which is one of the most common neural tube defects at birth. According to the CDC, about 1,500 babies are born each year with spina bifida. Spina Bifida doesn't present exactly the same conditions in every single person, depending upon the severity. In Megha's case, she was undiagnosed for nearly a year and a half before her parents found out that she had Spina Bifida. Because of their great love for their daughter, they left everything they had ever known in India after her diagnosis and immigrated to the United States to get the best medical care for Megha.
megha spina bifida
Despite having a condition that requires her to use crutches and ankle-foot orthotics, Megha says that her parents kept their expectations high for her in every aspect. Through their guidance and her experiences at school, she came to a realization that "the only obstacles that really mattered were the obstacles I created in my mind." Even with 3 major surgeries that kept her out of school for months each time, she never let it hold her back from her biggest goal: working toward a career in medicine. 

A huge influence on Megha's life and her decision to pursue a career as a doctor was her Pediatric Orthopedic surgeon. "I was always amazed how he had the ability to give children a much better quality of life," Megha says. That combined with his clear dedication to perfection in surgery as well as the way he treated her really contributed to narrowing down her career choice.

As she works toward that goal, majoring in Biology with focus on pre-med, she keeps a set of clear goals for herself to meet before finally graduating and moving on to medical school. She also wants to join the Peace Corps, because she has a dream to help other young children living with disabilities in other countries.

megha graduates 2017 spina bifida scholarshipMegha's drive to succeed is truly impressive, but we're especially moved by her dedication to use her career and her experiences to help and heal others.

Good luck in your first semester of school at the University of Virginia, Megha! We're excited to see how you will positively impact the world in the future!

We hope you enjoy reading a little bit about each of this year's scholarship recipients throughout the coming months as we feature them on our blog and our social media accounts. Feel free to check out past year's recipients on our blog. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter to stay updated on this and many more fun company events, educational topics, awareness, careers at 180 Medical, and more! 

180 Medical is honored to be able to offer a scholarship program each year to help students living with spinal cord injuries, spina bifida, transverse myelitis, ostomies (ileostomy, urostomy, and/or colostomy), and/or a neurogenic bladder. College costs are a lot to manage on their own, but we know there are often extra financial burdens on aspiring students who live with these medical conditions, so that's why 180 Medical created this program. Find out more details at our Scholarship page, and watch for coming announcements about the 2018 180 Medical College Scholarship later this year.

Did you know that October is Spina Bifida Awareness Month?

spina bifida awareness month

About the Author:

Jessica has worked for 180 Medical for 8 years and is the Purchasing & Marketing Coordinator. Her favorite things about 180 Medical are her great co-workers and getting to work for a company that truly cares both for its employees and its customers.