by TERESA SCHIFFER
Britainny Palmer may look like an ordinary mother, but she struggles with health issues that few have. Despite the obstacles created by her own body, she has managed to attain a bachelor’s degree in supervision and management recently from Polk State College. It wasn’t an easy task, but with perseverance and a marvelous support network, Britainny defied the odds to complete her degree.
Britainny attended the Polk State Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School in 2008, and though she didn’t receive her Associate in Arts degree through the charter school program, she did attain the degree in 2014. Her first child was born in 2009, and school wasn’t a top priority at that moment. It would take some time for Britainny to be able to make that sort of commitment.
The conditions that beset Britainny left her feeling exhausted and in pain much of the time. Despite the physical pangs, she was also a working mother when she made the decision to finish her degree. It is very physically demanding for her to do just about anything, which puts a lot of stress on her body physically and emotionally.
In addition to the ulcerative colitis and autoimmune hepatitis, Britainny also struggles with other rare conditions, such as antiphospholipid syndrome, vasculitis, iron-deficiency anemia, primary sclerosing cholangitis, and Hashimoto’s disease. This potent cocktail of conditions leaves Britainny feeling weary and drained.
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that interferes with the body’s process of elimination of waste. It can cause severe pain. Autoimmune hepatitis occurs when your body’s immune system turns against the liver cells. It also causes abdominal pain, jaundice, joint pain, and rashes. Antiphospholipid syndrome is another autoimmune disorder, one where antibodies are created, which causes the blood to clot. This can lead to many serious complications relating to blood clots.
Vasculitis is an inflammation of the blood vessels. Since Britainny has other conditions that make her blood prone to clotting, this can become even more dangerous when it is followed by her blood vessels becoming inflamed. Iron-deficiency anemia is relatively common, but lacking adequate healthy red blood cells only serves to further worsen her state of health. Primary sclerosing cholangitis is another liver condition, one which causes scarring in the bile ducts. This scarring reduces the bile’s ability to flow properly, which can then cause serious liver damage. Hashimoto’s disease is when the immune system attacks the thyroid.
Every time Britainny was pregnant with one of her three children, more conditions were discovered. In 2015, she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, autoimmune hepatitis, and anemia. The anemia had caused her blood level to become so low that she was often dizzy and on the verge of fainting. She was sent to the hospital for a transfusion, and that’s when the other symptoms were coalesced in the diagnosis of ulcerative colitis and autoimmune hepatitis. When Britainny had her third child in February of 2018, the remaining conditions were diagnosed.
Now Britainny cannot stand, walk, or even sit for more than 30 minutes at a time, making work impossible. This means that she won’t be able to make use of the degree that she worked so hard to attain. Even cooking and cleaning around her home has become difficult. Britainny is now using her conditions to raise awareness about the devastating effects of autoimmune diseases.
“Autoimmune diseases, in general, people don’t know about them,” Britainny said. “It’s important that people know that not everyone is ‘fine’ even if they look okay. I just want people to look deeper, and kind of be aware that something is there.”
Britainny herself looks like anyone else, meaning if you saw her at the grocery store, you wouldn’t take a second glance. Unfortunately, that look of wellness doesn’t translate into good health, as she speaks about in her statement.
Britainny’s treatment involves several medications, many of which have not previously worked for her. She is currently breastfeeding, which hinders her ability to try some new treatments, but when her youngest daughter is off breast milk, Britainny will be back to trying various new medications in search of treatments that will control her conditions adequately. The illnesses she has are incurable, but can, in some cases, respond positively to medication.
Though she may not have the opportunity to use her degree in the workplace, Britainny hopes that her children will learn from her example, and never give up their dreams in the face of adversity. Britainny credits her success to her support network, including her fiancé Radcliffe Anderson. Her mother, Jerri Palmer, a professor of nursing at Polk State College, also provides a source of support and inspiration for her. Britainny proves that setting a goal and working toward it is achievable, even when the odds are stacked against you.