Michaela looked normal accepting her diploma at her graduation on June, 8th, 2016. In many ways, Michaela is just like everyone else accepting their diplomas, you might even think that for a second as I begin to describe her. Michaela is eighteen years old. Her favorite bands are; Twenty One Pilots, Pearl Jam, Coldplay, and The Lumineers, just to name a few. Her favorite childhood movies are Monsters Inc. and Tarzan. Michaela finds dolphins cool, but cats are her favorite animal by far. Her favorite color is aqua because it reminds her of the ocean and relaxing.
Do you think Michaela is normal?
Just wait until this next fact…
Michaela Sullivan has multiple rare diseases and has had to fight for her diploma. Michaela missed about 450 days throughout her four years of high school. Not because of vacations or fun days off, but because she was sick or in the hospital.
Michaela suffers from Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that affects the joints and many other body functions. In addition to Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, Michaela suffers from POTS which affects the blood pressure, causing fainting. Michaela had to have her spine fused at the age of 12 and then again at the age of 14 when the upper part of her spine collapsed on her previous fusion. This was supposed to fix her back, but in the beginning of her senior year, Michaela was bed bound because of back pain. Her legs were in a constant spasm and she was expecting to be permanently wheelchair bound if things did not get better.
The school was slow in getting her tutors and Michaela fell far behind in her school work.
“I had to teach myself a lot of the stuff.”
In the middle of her senior year, Michaela had back surgery to release her tethered cord. This helped her to get out of bed and live her life again.
Just a few weeks before graduating, Michaela got to go to her senior prom.
Months before, “Being able to dance at prom was the last thing on my mind.” Instead Michaela was worrying about whether or not she would be able to walk. Michaela’s prom wasn’t just a prom, it was a celebration of having working legs, and she used them all night long, dancing the night away.
Michaela graduated on June, 8th, 2016, on time with the rest of her class. “I had a few teachers over the years telling me that I didn’t deserve to be an honors student because I was unable to attend school full time.” Yet Michaela remained an honors student, remained strong and she graduated on time with everyone else.
Despite all her struggles Michaela says, “Graduation is such a huge moment for everyone. Yes, I had my struggles, but I wasn’t the only one. Everyone had moments in high school that defined them. Some are more significant or traumatic than others, but everybody has their “obstacle”. Mine was just more apparent than some. I think walking across the stage was a huge personal accomplishment, but I think it was the same for everyone who got their diploma too.”