“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” – Mary Anne Radmacher
When I stumbled upon this quote, I couldn’t help but think of our new intern at Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone more determined – or courageous – than Mariah Reynolds.
Twenty-one-old Mariah came to our organization through Project SEARCH, a year-long program that helps young adults with disabilities transition from high school into employment. Children’s Hospital Colorado has served as a host organization for Project SEARCH for seven years, providing students with real-life, on-the-job experience. Of the 42 Project SEARCH graduates who have interned at Children’s Colorado, nearly a dozen have been hired on permanently at the hospital.
“A lot of families at Children’s Hospital Colorado are dealing with some rough diagnoses,” said Haley Couch, a Launch Programs Coordinator at Children’s Colorado. “Many are learning that their children will have a disability for the rest of their lives. But when they meet Project SEARCH interns like Mariah, they get to see first-hand someone with a disability who’s doing really meaningful work and contributing to our community. I think it gives families a lot of hope.”
Mariah is in her final semester of the Project SEARCH program. She has been interning at the Foundation for just two months, but she’s no stranger to Children’s Colorado. Diagnosed with epilepsy when she was just 1 year old, Mariah suffered from relentless seizures for much of her childhood and adolescence. Her epilepsy became so bad that her family eventually considered more drastic treatment options.
“My seizures were out of control, and I had to get rid of them,” said Mariah. “They would have killed me.”
When Mariah was 17 years old, she underwent surgery to remove a portion of her brain. The procedure was remarkably successful. Mariah’s seizures finally stopped. The bad news? The surgery caused Mariah to lose all strength on the left side of her body.
“I couldn’t move or walk or stand up at all,” recalled Mariah.
Mariah started doing physical therapy at Children’s Colorado. She slowly regained her mobility, and with much intense work, she learned to stand and walk again. But her left hand remained hopelessly weak.
That’s where Mariah’s quiet courage came in. Rather than dwell on all the things she couldn’t do, Mariah summoned her strength and refused to give up. One day, she had a breakthrough.
“Every day after my surgery, my mom had to tie my shoes for me,” recalls Mariah. “One morning, I decided to try it on my own, and I figured out a way to tie them myself. My mom came downstairs to tie my shoes and I said, ‘I already did it!’”
That moment was the beginning of a new world of possibilities for Mariah. She has since learned how to do just about everything with her weak hand – whether it’s styling her hair into a ponytail, getting dressed in the morning, or helping to make copies and file documents at her internship.
“She shows up to work every day with a positive attitude,” said Kelly Bernardis, Mariah’s supervisor at the Foundation. “She gives it her all, all of the time.”
Mariah even led a discussion for her Project SEARCH classmates about the importance of perseverance.
“I told them, ‘When you’re trying something new, don’t give up. Keep on trying until you figure out a way to do it,’” said Mariah.
Her courage might not roar, but you can be sure that whatever challenges Mariah faces, she will never give up. That’s one of the bravest kinds of courage that I know.