Why This Hospital Photo Is Bravery At Its Finest

In the summer of this year, I experienced a migraine that lasted two months, vision loss in one eye, and endless vomiting with no answers every time I ended up in the ER. I tried everything to rid my migraine and went so far as to get a painful daith piercing, but nothing helped. In October, I experienced the same symptoms that drew me to the hospital once again, except this time, they found five brain lesions and an inflamed optic nerve that’s caused me to become half-blind. I was diagnosed with a rare disease called NMO that requires infusions every two weeks to prevent another relapse.

It’s taken everything in me to get up in the morning. Work has become an endless struggle. I’m supposed to be the strong one, but right now, I feel like a failure – a disappointment in so many areas of my life.

Then I saw a photo of a little girl in the hospital on Twitter that stunned me. Her name is Akane, and she was diagnosed with NMO in November of 2018. She’s lost vision in one eye and she has to have monthly infusions as her treatment. It broke my heart that such a young girl is going through exactly the same thing I am as an adult and yet – she’s smiling.

She is the epitome of bravery in its finest form.

Akane didn’t ask to be sick. Like so many other children diagnosed with an incurable illness, the time they spend in hospitals should be time spent running outside without a care in the world. They should be role-playing make-believe nurses taking care of sick dolls instead of being a sick patient themselves. Life isn’t fair sometimes, but Akane is showing us that though life throws curveballs, we can still be grateful.

Through Akane’s bravery, we too can smile in our pain. We can be brave like her.

Despite the pain that I know Akane is going through because I’m breathing it right now, her smile is teaching me that I don’t have to focus on my pain because I have it. I can ask for some sonic and a board game on my next hospital visit and be content that I’ll have someone to play with. Whether it’s my husband, friend, or mother-in-law, someone always shows up because no matter what, I’m loved. I’m loved like Akane is loved by her mother, Crystal. We have people with us, holding our hand through scary times, and this is what matters- not doing this alone.

It doesn’t matter how bad the pain we are feeling is, as long as we can still feel the love of those that love us, we will survive that pain, again and again. 

Though life threw me a curveball, I can still be grateful I have my husband who keeps me warm at night, a job that pays the hospital bills, friends that have been there for me, my twin who never fails to make me laugh, and a house to come home to.

As this year ends, despite being sick with a scary, unpredictable diagnosis that has changed a lot in my life, I will be OK because Akane is OK. And if a seven-year-old can be OK in her diagnosis, so can I.

If I know anything about what bravery is, it’s because of Akane.

*Photograph for this article is used with permission from Akane’s parent.

*Donate to help find a cure for NMO at the Sumaira Foundation for NMO here.

Dear Teacher: You’re Not Wrong For Going Home

I know you’re finishing up your lesson plan in your classroom right now at six o’clock in the evening drinking whatever stale coffee you have left in your morning mug—I’ve been there.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from staying late at work, it’s that whatever I was working on could have been done the next day or the next week.

As teachers, we’re always trying to get ahead. We always feel like we can give more, do more, be more. But I’ll bet if you’re reading this, you already are.

The thing is, work will always be there. So go home. Go home to your family, your spouse, your children, or whomever your loved ones are at home and be with them.

Truly be with them; make memories and stop working. Yes, I have to swallow this pill every time I leave work and hope that it does its job on the road home. My husband reminds me of this every time I pick up my laptop to start writing IEP’s or my next lesson plan. Don’t get me wrong. I wholeheartedly believe in completing deadlines, but everything else can wait.

Statistics say teachers work an average 50 hours a week and we keep working over 400 hours of overtime a year. At the beginning of the school year, I stayed late at work for almost four months and kept working until nine o’clock at home. The time I was missing with my husband grew on me especially the weight I took home. My go-to spot on the couch was no longer my unwinding place with a glass of wine snuggling up to my husband, but one where I’d snack on a PB & J while my laptop kept my legs warm.

Doing this inordinately drained me. I had no spirit to give my eighteen non-biological kids day after day. This became a chronic problem because my students deserve first class and I wasn’t giving them that. I needed to take care of myself by giving time to all the wonderful things that once nourished me. I needed to feel my husbands hugs and hear the laughter that springs from family gatherings again. I needed to taste the goodness that comes from a fresh glass of wine while soaking myself in a hot lavender bath. I needed to be in nature and feel the sun’s kiss on my skin and see the beauty that comes from blooming trees. I needed to be with my friends and catch up on life. I needed to pray and be OK with not doing anything.

I need to do my life; all that it is when I’m not teaching. I absolutely love my students and what I do as a teacher, but it is not my whole life—so I choose not to give my work all of my time. I choose balance; giving myself to all the different things I love in life.

I realized the work I stayed late to do wasn’t due the next day. I had made up my own rules to make myself feel better in the moment not sensing the taxing impact it was having on my loved ones or myself.

So, my dear teacher friend, you’re not a crummy teacher because you don’t stay late at work. We have one of the largest professions in the country with more than 3.1 million teachers, which means that much more people have your back on that. So go home and sip your cup of evening tea on your front porch and feel the warmth of sunset before dusk hits. It’s OK to choose home and be with your crazy humans before the moon rises. You see, we give our best to our students by giving them a well-rested healthy us—not we got three hours of sleep and ate a PB & J before bed us.

You deserve to go home and truly be home. Your people at home deserve it—and the on average 3,000 students you’ll affect in your career life do too.

You’re already an amazing teacher. It’s time to take care of yourself.

image by Rustic Vegan @ therusticvegan.com