Earlier this week I had the privilege of sitting down with Claudia Martinez, a 27-year-old Pre Med Student at McGovern Medical School in Houston, Texas.
You might have heard about Claudia or seen her in a Facebook viral video recently. Her story has touched thousands, and her courage continues to instill hope in her friends, family, and patients.
An aspiring doctor, Claudia’s life changed in 2011, over 6 years ago. In the second year of her semester, what started out as a small headache, slowly transitioned into dizziness and numb feelings around her body. After falling due to no feelings in her legs, Claudia scheduled in a hospital visit. Following a scan of her brain, she was immediately sent to a neurosurgeon, who immediately scheduled brain surgery.
Claudia suffered from a form of Chiari I, whereby her brain would herniate from the skull due to it being too large for its surrounding.
“I remember being sat in the hospital, and the doctor came in to tell me the news. All I could think is, being a pre-med student, ‘how am I going to continue School?’”
Claudia’s surgery was scheduled for the first day of the semester.
“I asked the doctor, can we please postpone the surgery? I have school that day.”
The doctor’s response was simple and sharp. “Look, Claudia, it’s your choice, you can either postpone the surgery, or risk being paralyzed from the neck down, forever.”
Claudia’s surgery was set, and by all standard, she recovered well. Although it wasn’t long before symptoms started coming back around. Within 2 months, Claudia was feeling ill again. Headaches, dizziness, and blackouts were becoming the norm. After visits to the hospital weren’t showing anything wrong, a final fall put Claudia back under a brain scan, revealing a fluid leak in the brain, which is usually extremely rare. After under going another surgery, the leak was repaired, and Claudia was sent on her way.
From here, Claudia started to feel some normalcy, living her life the way most of us do. Until a year later when symptoms started to return. The brain had herniated again and was rejecting the material that was placed in the previous operations to keep everything in place. Unfortunately, this procedure didn’t turn out well. Claudia contracted meningitis from the third operation and resulted in a shunt being placed in the brain.
So where does Claudia go next, and what does 2018 have in store for her?
“I’m not here to be cured,” says Claudia.
“I’m here to be well enough to take care of patients in the future. Over the years, I’ve seen the value of being the patient, I’m used to studying 18 hours a day, always wanting a perfect score. No studying can show you what a patient goes through, I see it as a privilege, understanding what the families are going through. I bring something different, something first hand to my peers, to help my peers understand what patients are going through. I can be the voice, the advantage. I tell people, I want to be someone’s sign of hope. I was told that my patients wouldn’t want me to be their physician. I was told, ‘don’t be a doctor’ but being the hope is what keeps me going.”
Claudia is 27 and graduates in May 2020.
“An illness doesn’t have to be the end of your life. It can be the beginning. We all have two lives, and the second starts when you realize you only have one…
I’m so thankful for everything I’ve gone through.”