Woman Endures 6 Brain Surgeries While Studying to Become Doctor: 'Life Can Be Beautiful Again'
"My journey has been long and at times has felt impossible, but what keeps me going is my future patients," said Claudia Martinez
Not many college students have to balance books with brain surgeries, but Claudia Martinez has done both while completing medical school.
As an undergraduate, the 28-year-old University of Houston student was diagnosed with a rare condition called a Chiari malformation, which caused her brain tissue to stretch into the spinal canal and could cause paralysis. According to the Mayo Clinic, the abnormality is usually caused by parts of the skull being small or disfigured.
Prior to the discovery, Martinez had experienced severe headaches and fainting spells. Within days, she would be undergoing her first brain surgery.
“When I got my diagnosis, I was sent to a neurosurgeon,” Martinez told ABC affiliate KTRK. “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.”
Despite the ordeal, Martinez remained focused on her studies and managed to graduate with a 4.0 GPA. Thanks to her perseverance, she was also accepted into the medical school at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
“Since I was first diagnosed, I’ve had six major brain surgeries,” Martinez told the news station. “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 had an experimental brain operation after she experienced a seizure during her first year in medical school, Fox News reported. She later had to relearn how to walk and move her limbs when she had a stroke in her third year at the university.
“My journey has been long and at times has felt impossible, but what keeps me going is my future patients,” Martinez told Fox News.
“I’ve learned we don’t necessarily need a cure,” she added. “We need inclusion, we need patience, we need accessibility and we need individuals who are willing to work with us to give us the reasonable accommodations that, by law, we are entitled to.”
Martinez is now just a year away from fulfilling her dream of becoming a doctor when she graduates in May 2020. But she is already making an impact in her community by mentoring students and volunteering at a non-profit that provides services for those with disabilities, Fox News reported. She also routinely posts pictures of her journey on Instagram, where she has more than 54,000 followers.
“I want to be on the side of medicine that most people don’t see. I want to work with a population of individuals whose worth and potential is often overlooked and be their advocate,” she wrote in a recent Instagram post.
“I want to help them see that even though it may be a little different,” Martinez continued, “life can be beautiful again.”