For me, life with Tourette’s syndrome has been difficult at times and oddly enough, rewarding at others. Some of the challenges of life with TS are always remembering to take medication, the confused and sometimes disapproving looks you get from people in public, completing tasks when you are ticing, rampant misconceptions associated with the disease, and explaining to new people you meet what it is.
I have wanted to have a career in medicine for as long as I can remember and was able to begin truly building on this dream in the summer of 2016 by becoming an EMT-Basic. I have found that having TS can be rewarding as I believe it has enhanced what I have experienced in my EMS career. In my line of work I encounter people on a daily basis with chronic illnesses. Working as an EMT and having TS, I feel, makes me more empathetic of patients with chronic illnesses. Knowing what it is like to have a disease for which you have to take maintenance medication, and has an impact on your daily life helps me to understand their situation. I intend to take this empathy and attend medical school, with the intent of eventually practicing emergency medicine, with a sub-specialty in toxicology.
One memorable occasion for me during my journey with Tourette’s syndrome is when I first met Dr. Robert Greenwood, my neurologist at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. I had been living with diagnosed ADHD since I was 4 years old, and had been experiencing unexplained movements of my head and neck and an involuntary throat clearing coughs since I was around 5 years old. They had since been waxing and waning as my parents and pediatrician were experimenting with my ADHD medication to find out what worked the best. Then after these involuntary movements had gotten to their worst, and I was experiencing chronic and intense neck and back pain, my pediatrician referred me to a pediatric neurologist at East Carolina University. This was where I was first diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome or TS. This doctor also proposed putting me on anti-psychotics, muscle relaxants, and ADHD medications that made the TS worse. Not satisfied with what we were hearing and the care proposed, my parents requested a second opinion. This led me to Chapel Hill’s Pediatric Neurology Clinic, and Dr. Robert Greenwood, the head of Pediatric Neurology, and professor of pediatric neurology, at Chapel Hill’s School of Medicine. To me, Dr. Greenwood is truly inspiring, he exemplifies the traits that I want to have when I practice medicine as a doctor someday. He wholeheartedly listens and cares about my individual well-being, and has managed my neurological issues, with minimally invasive medication, without serious side effects, where other doctors could not. Meeting Dr. Greenwood was memorable because he was one of the first doctors that worked with me as an individual to find the right solutions that worked for me.