FOUNDATIONS OF HEALTH

AUDREY BYERLEY

To: You, From: Audrey

“I’m sorry, but you have osteoporosis of the spine. Do you understand what I am saying?”

A doctor asked me this question when I was ten-years-old. With these words, all I could feel was an inevitable change engulfing my life and swallowing me up. Limbs heavy and heart broken, I heard the doctor tell me my life would be forever changed. My bones were paper thin. My kidneys were failing as well. Dialysis was in my future. I had to give up riding horses, dancing and playing outside like a normal child. Everything was taken away from me at a time when my parents were separating and my life was falling apart.

“I can’t ride horses, I can’t play with other kids and I won’t be tall. Is that right?” I asked him unsure and tearful.

“That’s right,” he responded. “We will try a medication and some calcium supplements. I will refer you to an urologist for your kidneys.” Then he left. I was in a room alone with a nurse and my dad.

“Do you really understand, sweetie?” I can still remember her hand holding my hand and how it was warm, not cold. In my head, I can still see the small pin on her scrubs, a teddy bear with a balloon in its hand.

I looked at my dad for an answer to her question and he shook his head. I looked at her and shook my head, mirroring my dad. Carefully and purposefully, the nurse explained my diagnosis to me. She told me this was not the end of the world; I couldn’t lose hope and one day I would be okay.

As I have gotten older, I now realize I am a miracle. I know now I was lucky and, for some unknown reason, my bones became stronger. And through the whole process I didn’t just have a nurse, but a friend who loved and helped me.

I want to be a nurse because of this woman and this experience. She held my hand during bone scans, gave me suckers after every urinalysis and explained things to me in a way I could understand – in a way a child could understand. Through every procedure, needle and poke, I had a friend and wasn’t alone. When I felt helpless and scared, she was my support.

I want to work with children in a similar way. I want to help them understand their health, which is why I want to explore public health and pediatrics. I want children to know how to take care of their bodies and understand how impactful nutrition and exercise can be for their lives. I want to make a difference in someone’s life like my nurse did for me. Children are important and I believe with the right education they can overcome great odds. Just look at me. Doctors once told me I would be 5-feet tall, never be active, on dialysis and possibly facing death. I am now a fitness instructor, passionate about nutrition and 5-foot-7. I proved them all wrong thanks to the friendship and compassion of a nurse.