I met Elizabeth when she was persistent in reaching out to me for experience in the field of dietetics. All I knew about her at the time was that she was a UL student studying dietetics. Over the years, so much has changed! What was once a volunteer position has now been turned into a paid part time job with me and I learned that the girl I thought was just studying to be a dietitian, actually has an incredibly inspiring and amazing story to share with others.
What inspires me most about Elizabeth is her overall work ethic and her attitude towards life. There are many days I forget that this college student suffered a traumatic brain injury and still has to deal with the frequent headaches, fatigue, and dizziness that came with the injury. But she doesn’t let this stop her. Instead of giving up on life, this girl has really changed what could have easily been an “I CAN’T” attitude, into an “I CAN” and “I AM.”
I hope you enjoy and are inspired by her story!
During the Fall of 2009, Elizabeth Voorhies was an active Junior at Louisiana State University. On the night of October 29th, she was studying for a test when her vision got blurry and began suffering an intense migraine. Not long after, she began vomiting and loosing her vision off and on. Her sorority sister and house mother called the ambulance and got her to the hospital. The Neurologist on staff immediately took her into his care and began necessary procedures. After reading her scan he could see her brain was hemorrhaging.
The doctor discovered she had an entangled clump of blood vessels on her occipital lobe and diagnosed Elizabeth with an Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM). The AVM was causing pressure on her brain and blocking the path of flow for her cerebrospinal fluid. The malformation was extremely critical and needed immediate attention. In order to drain the fluid and blood to decrease the pressure, the doctor drilled three holes into her skull. Immediately after drilling the holes, Elizabeth was placed in a comatose state and on a ventilator.
About 2 weeks after being put on the ventilator, Elizabeth’s mom asked the doctors if they would wake her up. The doctors were extremely cautious and prepared the friends and family for the possibility that Elizabeth was brain dead. While removing the ventilator, she began to wake up. Elizabeth was awake, trying to speak, and write. It was a miracle, but the fight was not over yet.
Elizabeth had suffered 6 strokes during her hemorrhage and was partially paralyzed on the right side of her face. Throughout November Elizabeth worked to regain muscle function in her face, strengthen her body, and let her brain rest. In December, the doctors operated on Elizabeth to stop the bleed in her brain by filling the AVM. This was only a temporary solution to the problem and not a cure.
In January 2010, Elizabeth moved back into the sorority house and resumed one class at LSU. She wanted to gain back as much of her normal life as possible. In February 2010, Elizabeth endured another surgery to in hopes remove the AVM over the next 5 years. If you ask Elizabeth she will tell you that 2010 was a blur for her, as she spent a lot of time resting from the trauma. However, in April 2010 she started feeling immense pain in her right leg. Elizabeth couldn’t even walk down the stairs. Her surgeon referred her to a vascular doctor. The vascular surgeon discovered that Elizabeth had a blood clot in her right leg causing 90% blockage. The doctors repaired her right away. Elizabeth was recovering and trying to exercise to get in shape to hike Yosemite Falls in June. On her family vacation, Elizabeth wanted to take part in all activities and hiked Yosemite falls in 8 hours. It was the one of many achievements for her after her brain injury.
THE DOCTORS GAVE ELIZABETH A 5-YEAR RECOVERY WINDOW, WHICH WAS DIFFICULT FOR HER TO GRASP BUT SHE LISTENED AND TOOK IT EASY.
Elizabeth moved back home, switched universities, and changed her major in college while she recovered. In the fall of 2011 she was in 17 hours of college courses and had a check up scan with her neurologist. The scans showed the AVM was gone! As Elizabeth sat in one of her classes, she realized she was not being challenged and missed her old major. Immediately she met with an advisor and changed her major back to Dietetics. She was very scared she would not be able to handle the course load and remember all the information for her tests. She picked up 2 dietetics classes that fall and finished with A’s in both classes. This was great for her, but she felt like she needed to be more involved. She started volunteering, working more, and taking more classes. Elizabeth was getting her life back and making new friends.
Since going back to dietetics, Elizabeth has consistently earned between a 3.6 and a 4.0, is currently serving as vice president of the Student Dietetic Association, volunteering for numerous events throughout the year, working 3 part time jobs, and is a full time student.
Although the trauma of Elizabeth’s brain injury was a life altering experience, she knows it was all in God’s plan and for the better.
Amongst many things, Elizabeth now balances her life with school, love ones, faith, and personal health. She now sees how important it is to take each moment of every day and one-by-one, learning from them and live in them. The trauma has also taught her how to treat her body. Elizabeth was so busy and stressed before her injury that she suffered an eating disorder. The medications from the hospital caused her to gain 50 lbs., causing further feelings of self-consciousness. However over the past 4 years, through eating right and exercising she has lost 30 lbs. Elizabeth now fully understands how important it is to loose weight the healthy way and eats all her meals. Elizabeth is thankful for her brain injury because she is now eating disorder free, healthy, and values her time.
Elizabeth got married in December of 2013 and ran three 5K’s the fall of her senior year. In 2014, Elizabeth graduated with a bachelors degree and trained/ran her first half marathon. Elizabeth has 50% vision lost, is an epileptic, and suffers from regular migraines…but none of this has stopped her from moving forward in living her life and becoming her best self!
What inspires me the most is how Elizabeth is a fighter!
Being Beautiful and Brave means you pick up the pieces of your story, the places where you have fallen down or maybe when a card in life has been dealt to you that is just not fair…but you embrace it, you work with it, you strengthen yourself on the inside so that you can deal with all life throws you on the outside. You smile along the journey. You find passion and meaning in your life. You give to others. And you understand that that everyday is gift. The way we choose to treat ourselves, with food, exercise, and the words we feed ourselves make a significant difference in what we are able to achieve in life and just how we are able to help those around us…even if sometimes we are handed a “crappy” card.
Do you have an inspiring story to share? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org