Teaching through pain

Akhil Katuri, WTV Staff Reporter

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Teaching is may not be an easy profession for everyone and comes with its own challenges. It can take a lot of time and effort to be able to teach not just one, but several classes five days a week, and grade assignments, as well as create assignments for the class in the future, and maintaining a personal life with family and friends.

For food science and career skills teacher Jessica Fischer, life has had its share of challenges as she is just one of the less than the 1 percent of people in the world that suffer from ehlers-danlos syndrome.

“It’s a connective tissue disorder which causes all of the joints in my body to dislocate doing simple things, like if I turn around in the kitchen too fast, I can dislocate a hip or an ankle, and it’s part of what caused a severe spinal cord injury that I had in 2012 following a car accident,” Fischer said. “I was paralyzed from the waist down for 5 days before I had reconstructive spine surgery. I had to spend 2 months in the hospital, learning how to walk again, I had multiple surgeries, time in intensive care, a lot of surgical complications, and had to fight really hard to survive everything that was thrown at me. And that genetic condition contributed to how severe the damage was from that accident. So I am in pain almost every day, and when I teach, I do teach with accommodations, so I am often sitting with my students, or I am sitting on a bar stool in the kitchens while I am cooking so I don’t have to walk around or stand as much. There is a lot of fatigue involved and a lot of comorbidities, and medical issues that come along with that genetic condition, that cause me getting over-heated very quickly, fainting, racing heart rate all throughout the day, so I have to be really cognizant about my symptoms on any given day.”

For husband Eric, Fischer’s positive attitude is what makes it possible to do so much despite her problems.

“She’s got a good game face, she will never let anyone see that she is in pain,” Eric said. “If you do, then you know that she is really really struggling, but she’s always got a positive attitude. She always looks to the brighter side, she does not use her disability as a crush, instead uses it to empower herself, and I think that is really special.”

Attitude can be a small thing that makes a big difference and that has helped fischer in her long term recovery.

“I think the biggest life lesson that I learned was that resilience is the most important,” Fischer said. “If you have certain goals in mind and things you want to accomplish, there are a lot of things you can survive, but it’s all about the positive attitude.”