Christopher Nein recently earned his fourth AA&MDSIF Scholarship award. The aplastic anemia survivor is attending Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Virginia and was recently married. As part of his application for the 2012 scholarship program, Chris wrote the following personal letter to all children and youth currently struggling with bone marrow failure diseases.
In Chistopher's own words:
Friend and fellow fighter:
Most twenty-two year olds do not have vivid memories from when they were only two years old. I, like you, am no typical twenty-two year old. When I was just about to turn two, my parents noticed that I was bruising very easily while swimming at the local pool. Out of caution, my mother and father took me to my pediatrician. Within seconds of entering the exam room and noticing the petechiae rash, the doctor had me on my way to the emergency room at the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk, VA. My diagnosis was confirmed to be aplastic anemia, and I was transported to Children’s National Hospital in Washington, DC for experimental treatment. Thankfully, my brother was a perfect match to be my bone marrow donor, and I am alive today because of his bravery, the doctors’ skill, and ultimately the grace of God.
But that is enough about me and the past; let’s talk about you. I know it is hard. I know your entire world is spinning at the moment. I know you did not ask for this, and never dreamt it could happen to you. Mostly, I know you sometimes feel alone in the world. The purpose of this letter is to tell you in a resounding voice that YOU ARE NOT ALONE! There are millions of people who care about you and are constantly sending up prayers for you. When you are tired, when you feel lonely, when you cannot sleep; allow the prayers and well-wishes of friends and strangers to comfort you and lift your spirits. As a survivor, I am reminded daily of the struggles that you are going through, and I pray daily for you, and all of the other people in your predicament.
Now, we have discussed the past and the present, it is only right to think about the future. After you are done fighting this disease, your future will be extremely bright. If your personality is anything like mine, you will develop big dreams and goals, and you will run head-first trying to attain them. I graduated in December 2011 from Old Dominion University, and I will be starting medical school in August 2012; I have had this goal for as long as I can remember. The AA&MDSIF support system is wonderful, and they helped me to attain my goal of graduating from college and getting into medical school thanks to their scholarship program. Some people tried to discourage me, but I always knew that if I could beat a blood disorder, I could certainly make it into medical school. My future goal is to open a clinic in Haiti and work to bring medical care to the poorest people living in the worst conditions on our side of the Earth. Most people would consider this lofty and unattainable, but I will continue to fight and press forward until this becomes a reality.
I am willing to bet that you have goals and aspirations of your own. Do not allow this diagnosis and fight to stifle your dreams. Instead, continue your fight now with an eye towards your future. When you are well again, use this time in your life as fuel and inspiration to pursue your wildest dreams. I have faith in you, and I know that you will bring about great things in the future. I will continue to pray for whoever reads this letter, as well as for all patients who are fighting blood disorders. Just promise me that you will fight hard to overcome this disease, and then continue to fight for the rest of your life to see your aspirations become reality.
You are a gift,