Each day is a fight to wake up. Tiredness paralyzes her. Her joints ache, nausea fills her stomach. Her heart rate increases by 40 beats per minute when standing. Exercise has become almost impossible. Misery and hopelessness start to creep in.
Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, or EDS affects one in five thousand people worldwide. Junior Lauren Bailey knows this pain all too well.
“ EDS has made me miss out on marching bands, I couldn’t do much without feeling miserable,” says Bailey.
Despite these struggles, Lauren has still managed to be a hardworking student that brings positivity to every situation.
“I admire Lauren’s strength and perseverance,” says Spanish teacher Valarie Eldridge. “She has battled EDS for a while now and I know she’s in a lot of pain. I admire her optimism, strength, and dedication.”
EDS is a chronic disease that causes joints to become hypermobile which causes frequent dislocations and pain. The disease causes the skin to bruise easily and can rupture major blood vessels. Other diseases are connected to EDS such as gastroparesis that affects digestion.
While struggling with EDS, Lauren was diagnosed with another illness called POTS. POTS or Postural Orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, causes her heart rate to go up 40 beats when standing.
Lauren had to explore another option called the Sparrow Clinic in Arkansas. The center is built for people battling different kinds of chronic diseases and each treatment takes ten weeks.
“It was hard being away from friends and family,” said Lauren. “I cried a lot at the beginning and felt super homesick. I didn’t see change at first which was hard. I was in a bad place physically and mentally but I slowly got better and it was so worth it.”
Lauren’s schedule day to day was focused on her physical and emotional healing.
“I would do different neuromuscular rehabilitation,” says Bailey. “I would do things that would train my muscles to communicate with my brain. My body was in fight or flight mode because of EDS so we did exercises to calm things down. I also had a doctor for emotional support.”
At the end of her treatment, Lauren rang a bell to celebrate the progress in her health.
“ It was so exciting to ring the bell, “Bailey exclaimed. “I was so nervous because it was being livestreamed, but it felt really good. It was amazing.”
Due to months being away from school, Lauren had a lot to catch up on and made the decision to graduate early.
“In September we decided a college schedule would be better than high school. It could be more relaxed. Mornings are hard because my pain is bad and sometimes I don’t sleep.”
Even though Lauren has made the decision to graduate early, that hasn’t stopped her from working hard through all of her setbacks.
“Lauren emailed me every week to ask for notes and worksheets for the week,” says Eldridge. “She basically had to take my class as an online course first semester. She had to read the notes on her own, complete the worksheets, and email me if she had questions. It definitely was not the ideal way to learn a foreign language. She made the best of the situation and has completed all of her work minus the midterm. I really admire how well she did considering the difficult circumstances.”
Lauren has an Instagram account to encourage other children with chronic illness to spread hope and love in the midst of pain. Lauren finds it important to spread awareness and support others.
“I send out care packages to kids with chronic illnesses. I am passionate about sending care packages because I know what it feels like to have a rough day and need some encouragement. When I have received a care package, it helps me know I am making a positive impact on someone else. I want to continue doing that and hopefully become a social worker to people in crisis to help others.”