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My name is Annick Leger. I am from Dieppe, NB where I will be graduating from Mathieu Martin High School this year. At the age of 13, I was the youngest player to be selected to the Soccer NB Canada Games team and I was the Atlantic shot-put champion. People who know me, say I’m personable and goal oriented. I always look at the positive things in life and embrace challenges with a smile.

When I was in the middle of my second semester in grade 9, I woke up and my legs felt numb. I tried to get up but quickly realized that I could not support myself and walk anymore. Scared, I immediately went to the hospital and got admitted right away.

I saw a few doctors and after a couple of hours of tests, they decided to fly me to the IWK Health Centre in Halifax for diagnosis and care. There, I saw a couple of specialists and they ran more tests including a spinal tap which was extremely painful.

The results of the spinal tap confirmed that I had this rare condition called Guillain Bare Syndrome. They explained to me that my immune system had attacked my nervous system. The result at this point was total paralysis.

At this point, I could no longer walk, I could barely lift my arm, my lung capacity was less than 30% and the right side of my face was completely paralyzed. I could not even smile. I had suddenly lost an important part of who I was.

By the next day, the Syndrome was gone, but the nerve damage wasn’t. I was then told by the doctors that my strength and stamina from extensive nerve damage would only come back to the way it was previously with two to five years of training.

I stayed at IWK for weeks until I was sent to Stan Cassidy, a rehabilitation centre in Fredericton. I stayed there for months to get back on track to be able to walk again.

I was progressing nicely until I received more bad news. The doctors discovered that I was prone to epileptic seizures and needed to be treated with medication. It was an all- time low for me as I often wondered why I was faced with so much adversity. I cried a lot. At that point I made an important decision, a decision to never give up and to fight to get my smile back.

After a lengthy stay and 8 hours of rehabilitation per day for many months, I was able to go back to school and successfully finish my first year in high school with honours. I was determined to get back to my previous condition. So, I trained hard all year and I pushed myself to improve.

Within one year, I qualified and represented New Brunswick at the 2018 Legion Canadian Youth Track and Field Championships in Brandon, Manitoba. The doctors said to me at that my time there was the fastest recovery they had ever seen. I was also honoured to receive the Konica Minolta Spirit of Sport Award which is given out to only one outstanding athlete in New Brunswick for their perseverance in sport.

During my unfortunate journey, I learned important lessons that made me grow as an individual. First, I was angry and frustrated because I didn’t know why all of this was happening to me. However, when I got to the children’s hospital, I saw children and infants that were permanently paralyzed. It made me appreciate the little things that I would have taken for granted before my incident. It humbled me and gave me the tools to overcome any challenges in life.

I am incredibly proud of myself for not giving up. I have learned that sometimes in life, significant challenges can derail your objectives. Having the strength to not give up, has allowed me not only to achieve my new goals, but to grow into a better person.

In conclusion, even with what happened to me, I am grateful to have learned some important life lessons. If I had to give advice to anyone who goes through a tough period, I would tell them to appreciate the little things, learn what this experience is teaching you and embrace it. I now know that doing this will make things better. And most importantly, you must never give up.

I’m happy to tell you that I am smiling more than ever and looking forward to the next chapter of my life!! For me to get into a STEM field was a direct result of receiving the best care from IWK while I was paralyzed. It shaped me and It motivated me to pursue excellence in a scientific field. I believe with my life experiences and my fascination to solve problems will not only allow me to continue to grow in a career, but to also contribute the making the world a better place.

Best regards, Annick

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