‘I was pretty scared because I thought at some point during that night, I was going to die. I was supposed to die.’
Meet Bridget. Carrying the dream of qualifying as a tax practitioner, the beautiful, young South African couldn’t even see herself getting her degree, let alone finishing her first year of articles as a chartered accountant. Her medical history looks like a block of code compared to the norm, yet she has a joy-bringing beauty about her.
‘I always told my parents that I just wanted to be a normal kid. Since I could remember, I was in and out of hospital, and it was serious every time. There wasn’t necessarily anything wrong with my parents, but when their genes mixed, there was a predisposition in me. The majority of the illnesses that are carried in my family’s bloodline presented in me and it was presented in attacking most organs in my body. I have autoimmune diseases, which means, you have healthy tissues, but your body sends false signals to your organs and then your body starts attacking and fighting itself. It kills the organ itself because it sees it as foreign.’
At the age of 11, Bridget was confronted with Rheumatic Fever, the first bloodline illness that caused her grandfather’s death when her dad was just 13 years old. It attacked the valve in her heart that pumped oxygen to her body through the blood. This eliminated any idea she may have had of participating in sports. Her classmates couldn’t understand the severity of her condition, and it started a teasing game that affected her emotionally. In her desperation, she’d respond by wishing more serious things upon herself – all in an effort to prove them wrong, and to show them the seriousness. We can all relate to a moment where our situation seems so trivial, and our explanations get us nowhere just so people can accept and understand us.
High school didn’t get any easier for the straight-A student. School work increased, but Bridget refused to let her health stop her from excelling. Diseases came and went, but a life-challenging moment came in her second year of varsity. The 20-year-old was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a rare condition that attacked the inside of her stomach. Within 3 months, the doctors suggested that they remove the infected areas before it got worse. Her surgery lasted for 5 hours and her body didn’t react well. The doctor told her that she had gotten worse and he didn’t hold back on his concerns, there was little option to consider for further treatment.
‘I remember the conversation with the doctor, it’s something I can never forget. I remember him saying he was highly concerned, and I asked him if I was going to die. He couldn’t confirm it with me, but he had already called my parents as a precautionary process to say goodbye. I was pretty scared because I thought at some point during that night, I was going to die. I was supposed to die.’ Not only did she survive the night, but after a few months passed, the miracle of her recovery left the doctors speechless. Her resilience had given death no chance!
A few months later and a different disease was found in a different part of her stomach and started spreading. Pictures and the naked eye testified that her stomach was highly diseased. Doctor’s couldn’t establish whether it was cancer or the same condition that had attacked her before – the histology came back inconclusive and test results split opinions. Despite the uncertainty, the ever-faith-filled woman entered a three-month cycle of chemotherapy, and emerged victorious. After a year and a half (with a difficult road to recovery still ahead), she is now a healthier, hardworking woman.
Bridget still carries her dramatic medical history with her, having been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, a chronic pain disorder that affects her daily. Yet despite every setback, you would never be able to tell. Meeting her for the first time, you’d encounter a strong and driven woman, ready to take hold of her future. Even though she’s been through multiple life-threatening challenges, she has a new appreciation for her life and for every opportunity that she gets to work hard. Bridget’s dreams are bigger than she’d ever thought! She is engaged to be married to her best friend, Dave, whom she met during her varsity years. She is hopeful to one day take over her father’s business, with the dream of helping businesses to be treated fairly in their financials.