How I came to this quest:
I am an honor student at Skyline High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I have always loved riding and have competed in both 3-day eventing and show jumping. My dream was to one day compete at Rolex. However, a stroke in 2009 created challenges that would keep me from attaining that dream, but I did not give up. I was determined to continue to train and compete. In 2010, I attended the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky and realized that I could still have a dream.
At WEG I watched and met the elite Para-Dressage riders. I quickly realized that my physical disabilities uniquely qualified me for Para-Equestrian Dressage. My new dream was born, to compete as a Para-Equestrian. As a Para-Equestrian I could compete at the elite levels, while sharing my knowledge with other disabled individuals.
My quest to achieve my dream has taken me to Millbrook, New York. In Millbrook, I am honored to be training with Wes Dunham, one of the trainers for US Para-Equestrians at his barn Woodstock Stables. Wes is an accomplished dressage trainer and rider who works with both able-bodied and Para-dressage riders. Since I began training with Wes Dunham I have achieved one of the first goals I set for myself, to be selected as a member of the 2014 US Para Dressage Team representing the USA at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France. My next big goal is to represent the USA at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio.
At the age of seven, a routine vision screening changed my life forever. A slight vision difference between my right and left eyes led to a diagnosis of an extremely rare congenital birth defect known as Wyburn–Mason Syndrome. Wyburn-Mason Syndrome affects less than 0.14 % of the entire world’s population and can cause brain hemorrhaging, stroke, paralysis or death if untreated. It is a very dangerous and often undiagnosed condition.
The arteriovenous malformations (AVM's)that characterize Wyburn-Mason Syndrome are difficult to treat. My AVM’s are very deep within the center of my right brain, and along my right optic nerve. The doctors in Michigan diagnosed my AVM’s as untreatable. However, my mother began an exhaustive search for a treatment and found a wonderful group of doctor’s at Stanford University Hospital in Palo Alto, California. They were willing to attempt experimental treatments that offered a potential cure, or at least a reduction of my health risks.
In June 2007, at the age of 8, I began many medical treatments and hospitalizations. These included multiple staged CyberKnife radiation treatments to my brain and eye; a series of three unplanned brain surgeries; and a second untested course of CyberKnife radiation treatments to remove the AVM’s in my brain. As a result, I completely lost the vision in my right eye and suffered a stroke that caused the loss of the use of the left side of my body. Additionally, I endured countless hours of physical and occupational therapy to relearn to walk and use the left side of my body. Despite my physical difficulties, I continued to ride and train. My medical status changes each day, but it has not stopped me from attending school, riding, training, and doing most of the things that teenagers do!