Dealing with a Serious Illness at School


August 26, 2011
by Kayla Herrera

Summer typically has college students working, taking internships or heading home and those who stay on campus become a little more isolated, especially in a small town like Houghton, Michigan. So when a serious illness strikes, what do you do? I was fortunate to have my grandparents just across the canal but others are not as lucky.

Summer typically has college students working, taking internships or heading home and those who stay on campus become a little more isolated, especially in a small town like Houghton, Michigan. So when a serious illness strikes, what do you do? I was fortunate to have my grandparents just across the canal but others are not as lucky.

It started for me about a month ago. I had pressure and pain in my upper middle abdomen and I was kept up that night by nausea. I thought it was just something I ate but when the pain worsened the next night, I went to the emergency room. They did an ultrasound, took blood tests, gave me a shot in my buttocks – the worst shot I've received in my entire life – and began a weeks-long waiting period. Until a doctor surmised I likely had GERD (aka acid reflux disease), I took meds at night to sleep and lost about 20 pounds because I could barely eat without feeling ill.

This experience was extremely difficult for me emotionally. Daily calls home helped but I had a hard time not eating the foods I wanted to eat. I was already on a restricted medical diet for phenylketonuria (PKU) so having to further limit my dining options definitely took a toll. Now that I’m finally on the mend, I’m getting my food intake back on track and readjusting to the real world slowly but surely. The good news is I am feeling positive – about my health and the upcoming school year.

If you find yourself in a situation like this, all you can do is try to stay calm. Dealing with an unexpected illness away from home is hard – especially a serious one like mine. Don't be afraid to go to the ER if you experience pain; if you can't drive, hail a cab, wake up a trusty friend or call an ambulance. As you’re waiting for your results, keep your mind off your illness by doing artsy projects, Skyping with friends and reading. Keeping busy helps keep the mind off the discomfort and I also found that taking short walks outside helped in more ways than one. Dealing with a health issue by yourself at school can be frightening but all we can do is take a breath and know that this too shall pass.

In addition to being a Scholarships.com virtual intern, Michigan Tech student Kayla Herrera is a media coordinator for the Michigan Tech Youth Programs, a writer for The Daily News in Iron Mountain, Mich., and a writer for Examiner.com. She love a tantalizing, action-packed video game and can't get enough of horror movies (Stephen King's books always have her in their grip, though she prefers the old over the new). Writing is what she has always done, and that is what she is here to do.

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