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To the Professor Who Doesn't Understand Why I Need Accommodations for My Invisible Illness

You probably don’t quite remember the first week of classes¬†because it seems like a¬†distant memory by now. I was the student who came up to you after¬†class and handed you a sheet of paper from the Health Center explaining that due¬†to various health problems, I may need some accommodations during the¬†semester. I¬†remember you glanced at the paper, looked at me and then back at the paper.¬†You then placed it in your bag and said, ‚ÄúThank you,‚ÄĚ and all I wanted to¬†know was what was going through your mind.

You probably don’t even remember me giving you that paper¬†because I may not seem like the typical student who needs accommodations. Although some of my symptoms are visible, my¬†illness is invisible to the naked eye and deep down inside, my body is slowly¬†burning from the inside out. Not once¬†this semester have I needed to use any of my accommodations. In fact, I have only used them once in the¬†two years I have been here.

It was last semester when I needed to be admitted to the hospital for a ketamine infusion. This is the only treatment that has ever worked in the five years of having complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). I requested to take my finals a week early. Yes you read that right, a week early! It certainly added on the stress when most students take advantage of the extension but all I wanted was to not be in as much pain. At the end of that week I was worn out and spent five days in the hospital for treatment to get my nerves to calm down.

The only other two times I needed accommodations were when I had an appendectomy and my cholecystectomy. Missing classes and taking exams at a later date were the only accommodations I used but these are given to any student that receives an emergency surgery. With CRPS, surgery is not easy; it is 10 times more painful and it always causes a flare and I have a longer down time but I somehow managed to force myself to go back to school within five days of both operations.

So as we head into the final weeks of school and start¬†finals, please remember this: It is a stressful time for everyone. Not only do I have your final to worry about,¬†I have five other ones plus a project and a few essays.¬† I am also in a bad place with my health at¬†the moment. I have so much on my plate¬†and I am starting to wonder how I will ever get it all done. Just know that while most students are¬†pulling all-nighters in the library trying to cram before the huge exam, I am¬†also pulling an all-nighter, not because I want to, but because the CRPS puts¬†me in too much pain for me to sleep. I¬†will still get ready for the day when my alarm goes off at 7 a.m. and I will show¬†up to class and take that final with no complaints. I am also spending any free time I have while¬†at a doctor’s appointment or at physical therapy reading over my notes and¬†studying. I spend valuable time driving¬†back and forth to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh which is about a two and a¬†half hour drive from my college that I wish I could use as studying time. I am under an enormous amount of stress and¬†my body in unable to handle stress properly.

girl wearing hospital gown in hospital bed
Nora in the hospital

So even though I try and never use my accommodations, please try and be accommodating. I don’t like to admit that I cannot keep up¬†and that I need help. Remember that your¬†final is not the only one I am taking and I have to spend my time studying for¬†everything else, too. I would say I do pretty well in my classes considering everything else going on in my life right¬†now and I want you to see it so you can understand. This is how hard I am willing to work and I¬†hope you are able to work with me.

So when I come and sit down at my desk for my 8 a.m. final on a Monday and I look absolutely exhausted, just remember I probably only managed to get an hour or two of sleep and that I spent most of my time studying while I was at a medical appointment. Not everything is how it appears on the outside and there are often a million other things going on in my life.

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