A college career can present major challenges in the classroom, on the athletic field or even adjusting to life in the dorm.
For Courtney Kidd, a third-generation graduate of Olivet Nazarene University, those environments didn't provide her biggest hurdles. To earn her degree in early childhood development, she first had to disprove her doctors' original prognosis — that she would live only two or three years.
To pick up her ONU diploma Saturday, Kidd had to survive multiple open heart surgeries. She also had to make her way through physical therapy facilities where she relearned skills after a stroke when she was 12.
So, no, the collegiate climate wasn't really a big problem for Kidd.
"Oh sure, I thought about quitting along the way," said Kidd, now 30. "It got frustrating with the short-term memory problems I live with since the stroke. I'd sit at home and cry and tell my family I was done.
"But they were always there to encourage me. And I always went back the next day."
Kidd's medical issues began the day she was born. Her mother Annie recalled that Courtney "turned blue" shortly after she was delivered, and was rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit at Rush Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago.
"She had emergency heart surgery at birth and again at 6, 12 and 20," her mother said. "She had closed heart surgery at 2. And all through her childhood, she would bleed easily. She would bruise easily. She also faced some liver problems."
Courtney battled through it all to graduate from Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School before she moved on to Illinois State University. Medical problems forced her to move back closer to home and her cardiologists in Chicago. While her mother, her dad Kevin, brother Nick and a cadre of grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles were aware of her battles and ready to offer their support, Courtney's classmates never knew her medical history.
"I would have to tell my instructors and I had some great professors here," she said. "But I never felt quite right about telling everyone in class."
So, while other grads will focus on new addresses and new jobs, Courtney will be thinking about her next surgery.
"A heart transplant? Well, that might be well down the road," she said. "First, they're going to put in a new pacemaker battery. This one is 12 years old."
And while she awaits a date for that surgery, Courtney is making other plans.
"I might work on another degree," she said. "I do know one thing for sure: I will never let my heart get in the way."
This article republished with permission from the Kankakee Daily Journal.