Ehlers Danlos Grad Eyes a Career in Nursing

Lauren is thankful for the nurses who helped with her Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and many surgeries. She says, “I just want to pay that back and help other people.” She plans to go to nursing school. Despite her own struggles, Lauren manages to help others by volunteering and spreading EDS awareness.

BY DIANE M. BITTING.

Lauren_1When Lauren K. Muschlitz was a freshman at Lancaster Catholic High School, she missed so much school that she had to repeat the ninth grade.

A disease affecting her body’s connective tissues, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, kept her from attending school regularly; she was lucky to get there once a week.

The illness causes Muschlitz to have overly flexible joints, including her fingers, which had been prone to hyperextending.

“I don’t have enough collagen in my body,” explains the now 19-year-old recent graduate of Lancaster Catholic  High School and recipient of the school’s Learning Without Limits graduation award.

Whereas normal ligaments and tendons (two types of connective tissue) stretch and contract like rubber bands, “mine don’t work like that. They’re just really loose,” adds Muschlitz.

Once diagnosed at age 9, she could no longer participate in gym class or sports. She had played softball up until that time.

The painful hyperextension she experienced led to 20 surgeries to correct that, including each finger at least once. She also had her gallbladder removed because of the disease. Her most recent surgery, during her junior year, repaired her Achilles tendon and a broken foot.

Things have looked up for her since then. Oftentimes, symptoms that appear in childhood can become milder when that person is fully grown. That appears to be the case for Muschlitz, although she still has pain and must take anti-inflammatory medicine. She must continue to avoid too much physical exertion.

She also was diagnosed with autoimmune progesterone dermatitis, in which hormones cause an allergic reaction. That too has landed her in the hospital on several occasions.

After the struggles of her freshman and sophomore years, Muschlitz decided in her junior year to not let illness continue taking over her life. With a lot of determination and effort, she started getting better grades and managed to boost her attendance significantly.

One thing she took away from Lancaster Catholic was “to praise God unapologetically and I really think that is what helped me through. I kept faith and trusted that everything would soon get better,” she wrote in a follow-up email.

As a senior, Muschlitz took her first-ever art class at Lancaster Catholic. Inspired by the work of her artist grandmother, the late Beverly Muschlitz, she always loved to draw. Her preferred medium is pencil, and favorite subjects include still lifes and flowers.

Science, particularly biology, is another favorite subject, and one reason why Muschlitz wants to become a registered nurse. Another reason has to do with her experiences with illness.

“Being sick a lot of my life, it just really made me interested in helping people, because I was in the situation where nurses would help me,” she says. “I just want to pay that back and help other people.”

Muschlitz plans to attend Harrisburg Area Community College for her associate degree, then go to Millersville University to earn a bachelor of science in nursing.

Despite her own struggles, Muschlitz managed to help others by volunteering with Meals-on-Wheels for four summers, following sixth grade at Manor Middle School. During that school year, Penn Manor’s then-assistant superintendent, Ellen Pollock, would bring along students to volunteer with the organization. Muschlitz asked to continue when the school year was over.

“I really liked the fact that I was helping people,” recalls Muschlitz, who especially enjoyed the opportunity to “brighten their day a little.”

During her senior year, Muschlitz got involved with CAST (Crusaders Against Slavery and Trafficking), which works to raise funds and awareness of these modern-day issues.

“I think it’s a really important cause that a lot of people don’t know a lot about,” she says.

Muschlitz attends St. Mary’s Catholic Church. For fun, she enjoys experimenting with makeup.

She is the daughter of Lori Nicholson, with whom she lives in Mountville, and Rob Muschlitz of Lancaster. She has a younger brother, Andrew Muschlitz.

 Lauren wants to help others and give back to others with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome.

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