Rare Disease Will Not Slow Her Down

Richmond Woman Determined to Earn Degree, Pursue Criminal Justice Career

There are those who walk through life and face few obstacles, hindered only by the limitations they place on themselves. For them, joy seems elusive. Then there are people like Elizabeth Price. She has every reason to feel sorry for herself. She suffers from a rare disease that has relegated many of her fellow sufferers to life's sidelines. Yet she possesses a spirit that will not yield to her condition.

Elizabeth suffers from hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (hEDS), and from that, also developed Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS). hEDS is connective tissue disorder that is caused by defects in the collagen that holds joints in place. It means that normal movements overextend her joints and causes rips and tears. In recent years, Elizabeth has had six surgeries to correct problems that come from the disease.

POTS is a condition that affects circulation, causing such symptoms as lightheadedness, fainting, and an uncomfortable, rapid increase in heartbeat. "My blood pressure is chronically low," says Elizabeth. "When I go from sitting to standing or move too quickly, my heart goes into tachycardia, trying to pump blood through my body quickly. As a result, I can sometimes briefly lose consciousness. The IVs I give myself at home four to six times a week help prevent some of those symptoms."

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As might be expected, employment options for people with these conditions are somewhat limited. Elizabeth explored some of the options that were considered viable by her doctors, but none seemed to appeal to her--not the way that criminal justice did.

Some years ago, she lost a friend to suicide. "The circumstances surrounding her death were horrendous," Elizabeth says. "I watched her family go through complete devastation and they did not have answers. I remember wanting to give them some kind of comfort, but I also didn't have answers. I knew then that if I could help families obtain answers to trauma and tragedy, then I would be doing some good in the world."

But a future in criminal justice with her condition...how? Her doctors were emphatic: this was not an option.

Then Elizabeth began thinking outside the box.

"I made the decision to go back to college and ignore the requests of my doctors," Elizabeth says. "Not because they were wrong, but because I needed to prove to my children that even when life is hard you can set goals and reach them, and if you try with everything you have you can exceed the level of achievement you originally anticipated."

Elizabeth began investigating her educational options. After meeting with an admissions advisor at ECPI University's Richmond/Moorefield campus, she discovered that she could have a future in criminal justice; not as a police officer, but in forensics. That was all she needed to hear.

Soon after she enrolled, Elizabeth found herself in one of Mr. Brad Lehmann's classes. "He has been a guiding light along the way, pushing me to do better, teaching me to rise above the disease and achieve every goal I have ever dreamt of," she says. "He is the most caring, fair, knowledgeable, and dependable teacher I have ever had. His students love him dearly and gain what we believe to be the best education in our field through him."

Five months out from earning her degree, Elizabeth has a 3.92 GPA, is on the Dean's List, in the National Technical Honor Society, Golden Key Honor Society, and is President of the Criminal Justice Club. She says her children are her greatest source of motivation and she hopes what she is doing will also inspire them.

As for her fellow students, everyone on campus seems to agree that she is inspiring them as well. Her words of advice:

"Do not give up. You might be going through the worst time of your entire life, but I assure you, the biggest reward you can give yourself is success. Dig deep and find the courage to overcome and when you do, everything else will fall into place. Express love and gratitude for who and what you have. Set goals and meet them. If something isn't working for you, change it. Climb through even the smallest doors that are open for you and soon you will find yourself near the top. Don't sell yourself short. You are capable and you are worthy."

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