Rare diagnosis inspires Riverview grad to become a pediatric nurse

In between hospital visits and homework, Riverview teen will graduate with honors

Laura Moody reports

RIVERVIEW, Fla. – It’s been a long way for Ashley Kersey and it’s about to take an exciting turn. The Riverview High School senior will graduate in a few days. And next to her, she has a whole team of the principal’s cheerleaders.

Director Ivin Gunder, who most know as Mr. G, said Ashley has left a mark on them all.

“Man, I was just inspired,” he said, “I see her all the time, we talk.”

Ashley missed most of her high school days. Instead, she spent her time at the Mayo Clinic.

Photo credit: Ashley Kersey

The past few years were filled with a lot of IVs and hospital stays – so many that she’s lost count. During her sophomore year, things took a scary turn.

“It went from being healthy to having multiple chronic illnesses that are currently incurable,” she said.

Rarely did she lose her spirited mind. The junior year, however, was difficult.

“I really didn’t talk about it much. It was almost embarrassing. So it took me a while to accept that I have a feeding tube, but now that it’s not on my face, it’s not that noticeable,” she said. the gate is now hidden on her belly.

Photo credit: Ashley Kersey

Her body cannot digest food. She has to carry what she needs in her backpack every day – a tube connects the port to the nutritional formula her body needs to survive.

Her books and laptop are piled up too, but she’s found a way to make it work. Even at her sickest, Ashley insisted on using heart-shaped tape to secure the hopper and make the most of it.

Her mother Tracy was there on this trip.

“She always tries to make people laugh and always thinks about others,” she said with a smile.

Photo credit: Ashley Kersey

The last year came with a rare diagnosis: gastroparesis or gastric paralysis. It will be something she will manage for the rest of her life.

‘I’m not making excuses for myself. If there is a due date [for] the rest of the class I have the same due date whether I’m in the hospital or not, because I don’t let my health get in the way of what I most want in life and that’s a success, “she said.

She means it too. She’s only had one “B” all along. She graduates with honors and her diagnosis sparked her dream of becoming a pediatric nurse.

“When I was admitted, there was never a doctor or a nurse who can say they know what certain things feel like,” she said. “They don’t know what it feels like to have a feeding tube. I do. I feel like I could help children because I know exactly what it feels like.”

“She wanted to be a doctor for so long,” her mother said, “but after all those hospital stays, she said,“ I think I’d rather be a nurse. They do so much. ”

It’s a good thing Ashley got a merit scholarship of $ 100,000 to become a pediatric nurse at Mayo Clinic one day, courtesy of Jacksonville University. Instead of a three-hour drive to the Mayo Clinic each time, it is now only a 20-minute drive.

It is a blessing to a mother and father who have prayed so hard for their daughter. Ashley will never forget the day she got the news.

The three of us were all outside, speechless. There were no words. I knew it was and that it was perfect, ”she recalls.

Pictured: ‘Mr. G ‘and Ashley Kersey (Photo provided by Ashley)

So you see what Director Mr. G means when he says she inspired him.

“That’s her goal and I think she’ll be an inspiration to many,” said Mr. G, also a Jacksonville University alumnus, “but it’s also how she gives back and we need more positive ripple effects in this thing we call life . “

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