Did you ever wonder, “How is this happening to me?” This was my thought as I waited for the ER doctor to come in and give us a diagnosis to our 16-year-old daughter. It was a waiting game that felt like forever.
Our daughter is turning 21 next week. I truly don’t know where the time went. I remember complaining about how difficult raising three children, four and under, to all my friends in the same season of life. It has been one crazy ride with this wild girl of mine! Before I even had children, I used to pray that when I had a daughter, I wanted her to be strong and independent. I really don’t know what I was thinking when I prayed that but boy did I get what I asked for!
A little less than a year before I got pregnant with Ellie, I had a miscarriage. My mother passed away from cancer when I was only two months pregnant with her. So needless to say, I really held onto hope for this child. Little did I know that I would wind up having my best friend for life. She was a beautiful baby. Everyone said so and people would actually stop me in public to comment how she looked like a precious moments doll.
When she was about 4-5 years old, I noticed she had a love for drawing. As soon as she picked up a pencil or crayon, that was it! She was busy for hours. By the time she was seven, I knew she had talent. My sister told me she was destined for greatness. She believed it so much she had Ellie paint her a still life when she was young. Then she could say she knew her back when Ellie wasn’t famous. I took her to painting classes at seven years old and the teacher there recommended a school that could teach her at a higher level because she saw the same thing in her.
Life came to an abrupt halt when Ellie was diagnosed with Amblyopia. During a routine eye exam at school, the nurse discovered that Ellie could not see well out of one eye. She had managed to trick everyone at the eye exams and cheat to use the good eye. She thought she would get into trouble if she couldn’t tell the woman the correct letters. I was devastated to say the least. I questioned God, “Why would you give her this amazing talent if she could not use it?”
We took the advice of doctors and I home-schooled her along with her younger brothers for a year so that she could patch the good eye for nine hours a day. It meant she would not be able to see clearly for the whole day and would need the three hour window to do school-work. It was supposed to strengthen the weak eye, but unfortunately did not work. After the year was up, there was no change and back she went to regular school.
Our daughter has had to struggle with this all these years but did it stop her from pursuing her passion? Absolutely not! She went on to gain admission into the top performing arts high school, LaGuardia in Manhattan for Fine Arts. It was quite a triumph! She also went on to gain admission into her top college choices including where she accepted their full scholarship program, Parsons, The New School, Manhattan.
Now I know how it sounds. It sounds like I’m bragging. Well, I am! But, I brag not just to brag about her accomplishments but to brag on God. If it wasn’t for Ellie’s faith in Him, I am sure she would not be where she is today.
So what about this brain surgery you ask? Well, I’ll let her answer that question herself in her blog post from mynamesellie.com below:
"It is becoming rather than being."
I used to think that everyone had one defining moment in their lives. This moment helped you find out who you are or who you are supposed to be. From that discovery you develop that single identity as your life unfolds. I remember hearing people share stories of testimonials that inspired their artwork that were unique. I had trouble deciphering what my story was. As I matured, I delved into learning about the aspects of myself that gave me my individual sense of self. I understood that one specific moment or characteristic does not define a person. It was only until after I came to that realization that I experienced a big moment in my own life. In summer, 2014, I had been experiencing fainting, dizzy spells, and blurred vision which made creating art extremely painstakingly difficult. I was under the impression that it was chronic migraines and tried to move on. During a vacation that same year, I was involved in a severe bicycle accident. I was taken to the hospital where I was told that I had a concussion and needed a CT scan. I was visited by the neurosurgeon and was shown images of my brain. One area of my brain was clearly larger than it should be. I was diagnosed with a condition called hydrocephalus. As a result I’d need a shunt placed in my head that would connect to my stomach that would drain the fluid properly. I would live with that for the rest of my life and constantly risk infection. A few weeks later after multiple visits to the neurosurgeon back home in New York City, I was told I in fact needed brain surgery. Throughout this entire ordeal I was as cool as a cucumber. I felt as though I was strong enough to get through this and, if I did, the art that would result from the experience would be my salvation and my reward. I was motivated to never stop creating because I knew what it had felt like to almost lose the ability to. I sometimes believe that what is in your heart is shown through your hands. Whatever you do with your hands reveals the desires of your heart, both good and bad. I try to remain aware of my hands so that I am truly displaying the contents of my heart, with a little bit of help from my brain."
Of course she made it through the surgery perfectly. Not only that, but she did not need a shunt. The brain surgeon was the top Neurosurgeon in Cornell University in Manhattan. He was the only one that could perform this type of surgery that punctured a ventricle to allow the fluid to flow freely and not keep building up. It was all a miracle and we trace God’s hand all along the way. My motto is, “We all have a choice in how you handle what life throws at you.” I know it sounds trite but you really can make lemonade from the lemons in life. I’m fascinated by women’s stories of triumph over difficulties life hands us. They are women that have shaped my life and this is where I get to celebrate them. I celebrate my amazing daughter, Ellie’s life. Happy 23rd Birthday my girl!