The sky came crashing down.
One of my most promising students, it was around 9th grade that Courtney began feeling extremely weak. She fainted frequently. For almost a year specialists studied her symptoms, making little progress.
Finally, POTS was diagnosed, with such severity that she would face serious challenges in everyday life. Softball was not an option. Courtney was crushed. Why would something so wonderful be taken from her? Still struggling in daily life, I met Courtney at one of her older sister’s college games. She put her head on my shoulder and cried. It was hard to stay tough for her.
Always a good student, Courtney eventually found medications that were somewhat helpful, learned to manage the symptoms better, and enrolled up at North Carolina State, not as a softball player, but as a student. Little did she know what was in store.
Courtney said she suffered from the loss of her identity, she grieved over losing her dream, and she experienced feelings of low self-worth. We don’t always know where life is leading us, but Courtney began to realize that she was good at science, math, and even genetic engineering. She changed her academic goals, and her talent became obvious to people around her. Courtney was invited to participate in a lot of research. Even as a freshman, she was recruited to be part of a study “to stop viral replication in plants by using peptide aptamers”. Due to a confidentiality agreement, she could not disclose more about the research, but that title was enough to impress me.
Courtney went on to say that she would never have been able to handle the rigors of D1 softball while trying to pour herself into academic opportunities that came her way. Some of the discipline and goal setting that she learned in softball may have helped, as Courtney grew in her studies. By graduation, she was honored to achieve a tie for Valedictorian at North Carolina State. Having realized that she could use her gifts to help others, Courtney is applying to medical school and would love to practice close to home one day
Looking back, she says, “When I thought about college, I thought almost solely about softball. Then, when I was forced to try to find myself outside of softball, I realized that I had a gift for science and math and started to realize that I was really being led in a direction.”
There was a time when Courtney felt that her world had ended. It was heartbreaking. Now, having followed her journey, we both believe that this is just the beginning.
Sometimes your dreams are taken away from you. In the case of Courtney Walton, the agony, the struggles, and the sadness may not have made sense at the time, but they may have put her on a path to have a lasting impact on the lives of many, many people.
Best of all, today Courtney can truly say something that many people would love to say. “I think that I have found my passion.”