School a struggle after extended medical absence

Della Johnson | Staff Writer

Sophomore Rachel Kearney found it difficult to keep up with her schoolwork while recovering from her hip surgery.

Though the absences are excused, the work isn’t.

After missing time from school for medical reasons, students often find themselves struggling to keep up with school’s quick pace. Sophomore Rachel Kearney has garnered numerous absences this year due to her visits to the hospital for screenings and surgery. For her, recovery was a very long process, with her hip taking about three months in total to heal up. As she healed, Kearney said she found it increasingly difficult to balance her recovery with her schoolwork, regardless of lenient deadlines.

“This year I’ve missed a week continuously, but I missed days periodically,” Kearney said. “Last year I missed over a week. This was for surgery; I had surgery this year on my hip. I got super behind and all my classes just got insanely hard. [School] got harder and harder to keep up with. Teachers were lenient with due dates, but it was still difficult. At the same time, I was trying to recover from surgery, and then also I had to do double the work to make up for everything.”

I was trying to recover from surgery, then I had to do double the work to make up for everything.

Rachel Kearney, Sophomore

Senior Grace Marten suffers from arthritis in her hands and feet. When she is sick, she experiences flares of severe pain that essentially disable the targeted areas for that time. She said that, in class, it is difficult to explain her situation to her teachers without it sounding like she is lying.

“Right now, I’m having a flare in my hands and feet, and I can’t write,” Marten said. “My computer was dead yesterday, and I was just sitting in class and like, ‘I guess I can’t take any notes or do anything,’ because I can’t hold a pencil–I can’t do anything, really. It’s very frustrating and it’s hard to explain to teachers because I don’t want to be that kid. Saying ‘I can sit here in class, but I just can’t write anything,’ sounds fake. That sounds like I just don’t want to do work.”

Often, medical issues can come up without warning and stay undetected for a while. This led Marten to believe her issues and struggles in school were normal. Until she went to the doctor, Marten said she thought her pain wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.

“If I hadn’t done cross country, I wouldn’t have gone to the doctor for [my pain],” Marten said. “I probably would have just ignored it and never gotten diagnosed. I assumed everyone had pain like that. I told my parents about it and they said that it was actually not normal. A big problem with stuff like this is that you’ve only experienced your own experiences, so you assume it’s normal. I didn’t consider the possibility until I was at the doctor’s office.”

Junior Rilee Malloy has Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a soft tissue disorder, and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. Some symptoms she experienced include over-flexible joints, easy injury, and muscle pain. Malloy said she first started experiencing these issues at a young age.

“I had 15 fractures in one year, and I got diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, which weakens all your collagen, which is why I hurt stuff so easily,” Malloy said “I had to go to physical therapy, and I had to go to pain management therapy. I had to see a neurologist because of chronic headaches. All the doctor’s appointments caused me and miss school. The chronic pain caused me to miss school, too.”

Malloy said that she was not the only one who felt the strain of her absences. Though the majority of teachers have been lenient for her, Malloy said one of them snapped at her at a young age.

“One time in sixth grade, my teacher told me that I had missed so much school that she didn’t know how to teach me anymore,” Malloy said. “She told my mom. I stayed on top of all my work, and I had a better grade than most of the class. But she was like, ‘I just can’t handle her anymore.’ My mom almost pulled me out and homeschooled me, but [she didn’t], and I’m stronger today for it.”

Though missing school once in a while seems exciting for others, Kearney admitted she would have preferred to not have been away at all. However, she didn’t have much of a choice.

“I didn’t choose to miss,” Kearney said. “If I had the opportunity to not miss school, I wouldn’t have, but I didn’t have any other option. My semester would have gone a lot differently if I hadn’t missed that much school.”

Photo by Della Johnson, Illustration by Henri Robbins.