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Living with chronic illness in college


Staff Writer

The promise of new freedom, people, adventure and opportunity is what entices some high school seniors to apply for college.

But some stray away from the experience right away.

There are many different reasons why a high school senior would not imagine going to college the following year, such as wanting a career that does not require a degree, not being able to afford it or taking a gap year to work or travel.

However, for some students, going to college seems impossible not because of the reasons listed above, but because of a chronic illness.

According to WebMD, it is estimated that 17 percent of young people are living with a chronic illness such as arthritis or diabetes.

Chronic illnesses are defined as lasting three months or more and “cannot be prevented by vaccines or cured by medication, nor do they just disappear,” according to Medicine Net.

Some students at Salisbury University have to balance a chronic illness with school, such as one student in particular who has Crohn’s disease.

Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract with symptoms such as abdominal cramps, constipation and diarrhea, according to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America.

The student had doubts about if she could go to college. Two days before coming to SU orientation, she had a “flare up,” which involves fever, abdominal pain and vomiting, and lasted for a few days.

She almost decided that she wasn’t ready to come to SU yet because she was not able to find any medicines that would work for her, and she thought that she would have to find treatment before she could go to school.

However, she was able to come to SU on time, and was able to manage her chronic illness with some accommodations. She is currently living in a single with her own bathroom, which was important before her most recent surgery because of her “constant flare ups.”

But she says it can get lonely in a single, and since her condition has improved since her January surgery, she wishes she had someone to talk to.

To be successful in college with a chronic illness, the student says it’s important to have a strong support system. Her friends keep her fighting when she’s away from her home and family.

Disability Services is also important to living in college with a chronic disease. She said she spoke to someone right away, and they were quick to give her accommodations. They offer counseling, which can make things easier.

Kate MacDonald, coordinator with Student Disability Support Services, described the steps a student would need to go through when coming to Disability Services.

First, the student would need to provide disability documentation and submit this information to the staff. MacDonald recommended calling to confirm the information was received.

After this is completed, the student could call to make an intake appointment and a meeting with a staff member to discuss accommodations for the specific disability and to give other recommendations for the student.

MacDonald also made clear that students who are registered with Disability Services are just like students who are not registered. She says that students with disabilities admitted to the university are just as qualified to come here as students without those disabilities, and that they often are worried about similar things when starting college.

Disability Services is located in GUC in room 263, and their phone number is (410) 677-6536.

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