Neurosurgical patient, student, non-profit founder, advocate.
Allison has done a lot while battling a brain condition, but her biggest accomplishment is the legacy she’s built at Children’s Hospital.
Allison’s parents brought her to East Tennessee Children’s Hospital with a fever and seizures at just 12 days old. Once she was admitted into the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), the specialists there diagnosed her with a rare strand of bacterial meningitis, which quickly developed into hydrocephalus.
Hydrocephalus is a lifelong condition where fluid builds up and creates pressure on the brain and spinal cord. The only way to relieve this pressure is with a shunt (a series of tubes that moves excess fluid from the brain to elsewhere in the body, where it can be absorbed properly). Allison was just six weeks old when her first shunt was placed.
“East Tennessee Children’s Hospital became our second home,” Allison’s mother says. “Everyone was there for us through it all and I’m not sure what we would have done without them.”
Allison, now a pre-med student at the University of Tennessee, is studying biochemistry. The junior is also involved in biomedical research on shunts so that she can one day develop a shunt with a better success rate.
“She knew she wanted to become a pediatric neurosurgeon in the second grade,” says her mother.
“I want to work alongside those who helped me,” Allison adds.
The enthusiastic student is always working toward something. Her passion has driven her to become an advocate for patients with invisible illnesses, and to launch a non-profit that provides patients with personalized stuffed animals.
“It’s important to advocate for others, because not all children have the same resources,” says Allison. “I want to remove the stigma of ‘but you look fine,’ because not every condition is visible.”