Hi! My name is Katie Krouse, I am from Herndon, VA and I have been suffering from illness for over a decade. Like many people that later find out that they have a chronic illness, I saw numerous specialists and received countless diagnoses throughout the years, such as Vestibular Migraine, Panic Disorder, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS), and chronic Neurological Lyme Disease. Although I have been learning to cope with these diseases and conditions for years, my life took a turn for the worst in the Fall of 2019, when I was studying abroad in Pecs, Hungary.
One day, my study abroad experience came to a screeching halt, when I found myself too weak, fatigued, and neurologically impaired to navigate life on my own. My situation was quickly declared a medical emergency and less than 48 hours later, I was home.
A few days later, I saw Dr. Joseph Jemsek in Washington, DC. After hearing my story, he looked at me with a straight face and said, “you are not going back to school this year.” He went on to tell me that I would have to undergo 9+ months of highly invasive IV treatment for chronic Neurological Lyme Disease and tick-borne parasites. My body was riddled with active Lyme, and it left me powerless.
That year, I did daily infusions, I had surgery, and delt with other medical conditions caused by Lyme. I fought tirelessly day in and day out for the semi-normal life that I so badly longed for. Although I was completely devastated to hear that news, I was determined to make the most of it. During that year, I grew in faith, I strengthened friendships, and I gave back to the chronic illness community by writing a children’s book and creating a support group for chronically ill young adults.
In many ways, I am very grateful for that year, because it taught me many valuable lessons. I learned how to relax; something that I never chose to make time for previously. I learned to put my health first. I learned to seek the beauty in every day. Most importantly, I learned to embrace life’s obstacles, as beautiful things come out of devastating situations.
While my chronic illness journey is ongoing, I have been able to return to the University of Denver to finish my undergraduate degree in Psychology, Biology, and Health Science and I will graduate in June. After graduation, I plan to attend Rush University to pursue a Doctor of Occupational Therapy; a career that I have been chasing since before chronic illness took over my life.
To my fellow chronic illness warriors: never stop fighting. The road to recovery is by no means linear, but it will get
better. Trust the process and believe in yourself and in your body’s ability to heal. Choose happiness even in the darkest of times, a positive mindset goes a very long way.