I have visited Spectrum Health's Helen Devos Children's Hospital many, many times since 2012. In a few days I will turn 18, and I couldn't be more thankful to be entering adulthood in a much healthier mental and physical state.

This past week I went to the hospital to get updated MRI scans performed. As I was in the changing room, I caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror. Unlike nearly all of my past visits, I saw a healthy-looking young woman staring back at me. I no longer look like a ghost with bad eating habits, severe pain, or suicidal tendencies. It's been a long, long journey.

I am so endlessly thankful to only have to commute thirty minutes to have access to such advanced facilities right here in Grand Rapids. I recently read an article that stated Grand Rapids was the top metro city in the US for job growth, marking a 4.4% increase in a single year alone. As an incoming pre-med student that aspires to be a physician's assistant, I know that I am where I am meant to be. There is hope here, in the heart of GR.

I have so many physicians, physician assistants, nurses, social workers, and medical technicians to thank. I am healthier today because of you all. I am here still because of you all.

To the neurologist that diagnosed me in 2012, how you managed to diagnose me on the spot within fifteen minutes is beyond me. You were spot on. I have central pain syndrome. Many people think a diagnosis is simply a label with no power. In the medical world, a diagnosis gives permission to begin trying medications and therapies related to that diagnosis. My fifteen minutes with you was the foundation to my future healing.

To my primary care physician, not once did you make me feel like a guinea pig or helpless individual. You explained each medication to me, never suggesting any medications that have even possible counteractions with my other medications. You believed in me. As invisible my pain was, you took my input seriously. You have given me countless referrals to the best of the best when it comes to specialists, meanwhile always telling me exactly what'd they tell me when I went there beforehand. You were always right. "If we can just get you to eighteen, you will have made it through the worst of this pain," You explained to me. Hormones, puberty, and imbalances intensified my pain to such a high degree. Now, turning eighteen in merely days, I couldn't agree more. I still embody more pain than any young person should, but I am more at peace than I ever imagined possible. I thank you for everything. I'm even going to the same college you did! You inspire me to help others, because sometimes us patients are a little complex. Thank you for your patience. I am here today, without a doubt, because of you.
To the nurse who held my hand as I went in and out of consciousness, trying to wake up from my suicide attempt in 2016, I don't remember your face- but I remember murmurs of your hopeful pleas.
"You're so young, dear." "You have yet so much ahead of you.""We are all here with you.""You aren't alone."
You kept me stable. When I awoke from my unconsciousness, I just cried and held my family. I knew I had hurt them, but I was assured that they understood that that wasn't my intention. I was hurting, yet not wanting to hurt anyone else in the process of ending my pain. I knew that if I couldn't successfully commit suicide, that I was meant to stick around. That pain was temporary, and as you said, I do have yet so much ahead of me.
To the social worker who first explained high-functioning anxiety and depression, as she assessed why my suicide attempt was so impulsive and undetected, I've never felt so transparent. You saw through me. You met my invisible pain right where it was at. I never understood how my grades could be perfect, I could have a lot of friends, yet I was hurting. I didn't express it. I tried convincing myself I was okay. I know now that I must address my pain and speak up when I am hurting, because it is simply within my nature to appear okay, even when I'm not.
To the young nurse who was working third-shift, who monitored me while on suicide-watch awaiting an opening in Forest View later in 2016, how do you do it? You had classes the next morning. It was past 3 AM, and there you were with a single foot in the door making sure I stayed safe while going to the bathroom. I didn't plan to do anything, but you stayed there no matter what. You talked to me in the silence of the early hours. Thank you for making the wait calm, and for letting me ask you a million questions about the nursing program and traveling abroad.
To the social worker who devised a plan to help me get better, you assured me that it didn't have to be a strain on my family to get me better. Within two days I would enter Forest View's partial impatient program. It wouldn't be too far of a drive whatsoever, and there would be a team familiar with my case. Just knowing that help was ahead of me, I wasn't concerned about waiting merely two days. I was hopeful.


To the neurologist I visited this past spring, you have such bed-manner and knowledge. You located the specific areas and sources of my migraines, suggested which scans of my skull/neck/jaw to get, and which clinic to go to. You made the referral process go much more smoothly, persisting that although I was yet a minor by just a few months, the treatment I needed was appropriate. You truly got to know me as an individual during a single appointment, even my father who came with me. You made it a goal to devise a plan that my family understood as well.

To my doctor at the pain clinic, I now know Superwoman in the flesh. You devised an aggressive plan to get me feeling physically ready to face college within just a few months. We discussed countless possibilities. Ultimately, all decisions made were based on my own comfort level. I received occipital nerve-blocker injections, and for the first time in five years I am free of daily migraines. The span of my migraines has shortened, and the types of my migraines have narrowed. I now believe I may one day be migraine-free. I picked up reading materials you suggested, eating more food that doesn't cause inflammation. I push myself through the pain when walking or biking. I ordered the prescription lotion that you suggested, I simply apply it to areas of pain and I am quickly relieved. I am ready to face college head-on.

Spectrum Health has been a second home to me throughout my teenage years, and just like at home, each employee made the environment comfortable. Seeing people of all ages and backgrounds with such insight and urge to help others, without a doubt has been my leading prompt to becoming a physician's assistant. I have experienced the best of care, therefore I hope to do the same for people like me someday as well.