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Meet Cara

At the age of 21, Cara has her dream job as an emergency room nurse at Peninsula Regional Medical Center. She knows all too well what it is like to spend time in a hospital, since she was diagnosed with Von Willebrand, a blood clotting disorder, at the age of five.

“I practically lived in the hospital and nurses made it OK,” said Cara. She was especially fond of “Nurse Wendy,” who was often there to give her infusions when she needed them.
Before Cara’s diagnosis, teachers would often find her falling asleep in school. She was sent home and often spent hours napping on the couch. After one of those naps, Cara’s mom was horrified to find her daughter covered in bruises from head to toe. “It looked as if she was beaten with a baseball bat,” said Cara’s mom.

Cara was rushed to the hospital and initially diagnosed with leukemia. She saw several doctors before she was correctly diagnosed with Von Willebrand. But even after an accurate diagnose, Cara still had challenges. Since the blood disorder is rare, she sometimes had to travel hours from the Eastern Shore to Johns Hopkins Hospital to be seen by doctors who were familiar with the disorder. “No one around here would see me because they didn’t know what needed to be done in order to help me,” said Cara. Her Clinical Care Coordinator helped her located physicians and providers who knew about Von Willebrand and had experience working with patients who had blood clotting disorders.

Due to the severity of the blood disorder, Cara could not enjoy many of the activities that other children her age enjoyed. She could not participate in activities that would potentially cause her harm. For Cara that meant not being able to ride a bicycle, play sports or ride horses, which was especially hard since her family lives on a farm. Even a stubbed toe would cause Cara to bruise up to her knee and meant a trip to the hospital for an infusion.

Cara has experienced other health related problems due to Von Willebrand. She consistently needs to have dental work done, had to have her thyroid removed and is prone to infections and illnesses.

All of this hasn’t stopped Cara from achieving her dream of being a nurse. In May 2016, Cara graduated from nursing school with straight A’s. “People would tell me I shouldn’t go into the medical field because of my compromised immune system or that I couldn’t do it,” Cara said. “But I can. Nothing should hold you back.”