Lifestyle & Human Interest

After Devastating Diagnosis and 6 Brain Surgeries, Med Student Keeps Fighting for Dream Job


“Hardships are often blessings in disguise.”

We’ve heard variations of this sentiment throughout our lives. The phrase makes a lot of sense when we have some distance from the struggles we’ve encountered, though it’s hard to see potential blessings when you’re in the middle of heartbreak.

Claudia Martinez recently wrote those words in a Facebook post detailing the rough past couple of years she’s experienced. And if anyone has earned the right to express that sentiment, it’s her.

Martinez has had her sights set on becoming a doctor from as early as she can remember, according to WTVD. Her life pushed her forward toward that goal until she was starting down the educational path at the University of Houston.

While everyone who has attended college knows firsthand the stress of attending such institutions, Martinez experienced crippling symptoms. She was blacking out, having major headaches and her legs became unsteady.

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After going to doctors to figure out what was happening, she found out she had a condition called Chiari Malformation — and that was bad news for the bright young student.

“When I got my diagnosis, I was sent to a neurosurgeon,” she told WTVD.

“He told me that I needed brain surgery as soon as possible. If not, I was going to be paralyzed from the neck down. And so within a week I was undergoing my first brain surgery.

“I thought I’d have one surgery. I knew my life would be a little different, but I thought I would have this surgery and go on to med school. And that would kind of be the end of my story. But it’s been quite the opposite of that.”

Martinez endured not one but six surgeries, according to WTVD. Her problems didn’t end there, either — after a 2017 surgery, she experienced serious complications.

“The first time I entered TIRR Memorial Hermann was a little over 2 years ago,” she wrote on Facebook.

“I was strapped to a stretcher being wheeled in by EMS. I had just suffered a stroke to my brainstem weeks prior while undergoing an experimental brain surgery.

“Initially, I couldn’t function from the neck down and so I was transferred to TIRR to begin my neurorehabilitation, but also, unbeknownst to me, a chance to immerse myself in the field of PM&R with the perspective of both a patient and a medical student.

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“I had to relearn how to do absolutely everything,” she added.

It was a painstaking task to relearn how to complete everyday tasks like taking a shower, picking things up and even walking. She had a team, though, that cheered her on with every positive development.

This whole time, some people couldn’t see how Martinez could ever realize her dream of becoming a doctor, but she hadn’t given up yet.

“After my stroke many around me were so focused on what I could no longer do that many told me I needed to seek another career outside of medicine,” she wrote.

“But it was my PM&R physician, who at my lowest point in my health functionally, saw my worth and instead welcomed me into her field.”

She got an up-close-and-personal experience of the recovery and rehabilitation processes that will help her understand and relate to her future patients.

Now, she thanks God for the unique angle she’s been given, and it’s because of her struggles that she decided she wants to pursue Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

“I want to work with a population of individuals whose worth and potential is often overlooked and be their advocate,” she wrote.

“I want to help them see that even though it may be a little different, life can be beautiful again.”

Martinez is set to graduate in 2020 from University of Texas Health McGovern Medical School and will no doubt be an invaluable asset to and advocate for her future patients.

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