This week, we are so very proud to feature Lauren Jarman, a woman of strength and determination, as part of our Women in Business series. Lauren has a particularly moving story, having been diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease a month before her wedding in 2011. Learn all about how she keeps her mental strength, the advice she has for other women battling diseases, and her journey to becoming an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner at Lowcountry Infectious Diseases.
- Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner with Lowcountry Infectious Diseases in Charleston, SC. In 2010, I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT and immediately moved to Mount Pleasant, SC where I accepted a position with the Neuro Spine floor.
A month before my wedding in 2011, I was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis. A rare autoimmune disease that when translated means ‘grave muscle weakness’. Essentially my mind sends a signal to my muscles to function, and there is a blockade preventing my muscles to receive that signal. It primarily affects ocular, chewing, swallowing and breathing. Without a definitive treatment that ‘cures all’, I began several forms of treatment but most just delayed the inevitable where I would end up in the ICU for several weeks.
Despite my diagnosis and being ventilated 7 times, I was determined to go back to school and switch my career from the Neuro Spine floor at Roper Hospital to a Nurse Practitioner role that is less physically demanding. As I was being treated I applied to Georgetown University and was accepted. For the next two years I continued to battle balancing work, school and my health. Not to mention, I was also pregnant during my last year before graduating.
After contracting RSV in late December 2014, I was rushed to the hospital in January 2015 where I was intubated immediately to save me and our baby girl. A short week later, Charleigh Grace was born 8 weeks early. After several scares we were all healthy and ready to go home 45 days later. I graduated that Spring and accepted a role with Lowcountry Infectious Diseases. More importantly, we have a healthy child and I am in remission.
- How has life changed since your diagnosis? How have you overcome it? Where do you get or how do you keep your mental strength?
My life changed drastically after being diagnosed. For nearly 2 years I was unable to walk up and down stairs or get myself off the couch. I became very dependent on others which was a new concept for me. Through bouts of exacerbation I found strength in school, my 2 amazing dogs (pet therapy is extraordinary), and my closest friends and family.
Since my diagnosis I have tried to cherish the little things in life. After 5 years I truly feel like I have gotten my life back. I enjoy a night out with my friends, traveling, and now love those calm days sitting on the couch with my husband Dave, my daughter Charleigh Grace, and 2 fur babies Riley Ann and Saidey.
Now that I am in remission I have turned my focus on raising awareness and funding for Myasthenia Gravis. I’m beyond grateful to have my life back but it wasn’t without difficulty. I want other people battling all different diseases to know that there is hope and don’t give up!
- What are some of the biggest challenges of living with a disease?
Understanding my limitations. As a young 23 year old I still wanted to live that “college lifestyle” And now in the present day, being a working mom, I have to remind myself to take a break. That is a very difficult task for me to understand.
- How has living with your disease affected your career?
My career initially took a back seat. I was unable to perform any task a nurse should be able to do. Simply walking was a task for me. Life became very difficult as I spent countless days on the couch often feeling sorry for myself. I decided I needed to find a focus and a purpose again. I applied to Georgetown University’s Masters in Nursing Program not really thinking I would even be accepted. But guess what, I was! After a long discussion with my partner in crime, my amazing husband… I started the long road to receiving my masters.
In the middle of my first year I had yet another setback and spent over 2 weeks in the ICU again. I still managed to keep up with my classes. School was a wonderful distraction to the life I was living. Much of 2013 was spent in and out of hospitals but I still had my Hoya family, my incredible friends and supportive family all cheering me on.
In 2015 we welcomed our beautiful daughter Charleigh Grace into the world. But let me tell you it wasn’t without a struggle. She surprised us 2 months early when I yet again experienced another crisis and a very complicated childbirth. I was due to complete my Masters that very month. Scheduled to fly to Georgetown in fact. School for the first time in 2 years was put on hold. I did eventually complete the program that June.
Fate played another roll in my career as one of the ICU nurses who had cared for me during one of my hospital stays also knew me professionally and recommended me for a job. In January 2016 I accepted a full-time position with Low Country Infectious Diseases as a Nurse Practitioner.
So in conclusion MG didn’t hinder my career. It, in fact, furthered my career. My ultimate goal was to always go back to school and get my Masters but because of everything I went through it allowed me pursue and further my career.
- What advice do you have for young women battling diseases? Or advice for entering the workforce?
Believe in yourself. Find strength in the people you surround yourself with. Try and find the positive in your situation and adapt. And most of all, pick a career that you love and can grow with.
- What words of wisdom would you give to your younger self?
Life could be a lot worse so cherish the little things in life. Giving an extra kiss to your spouse or call your parents up just to say I love you.
- Who is your role model and why?
My beautiful and strong mother, Lisa. She followed her dream to create a private school from the ground up. Whenever I thought about giving up I thought about all the amazing children she taught and how I’m sure there were days she wanted to give up but she never did.
- How would you define success?
Success for me is always providing a great quality of life for my family. Also, helping and healing my patients while always maximizing my potential. I’ve always wanted to put myself in a position where I could focus on giving more than I could ever expect to receive in return. I am honored and privileged to help others in need.
- What do you think is the biggest challenge facing women today?
Motherhood vs career. In this day in age I feel woman are judged for being stay at home moms or being judged for being a working Mother. Neither one is easy but both are often necessary.
- Favorite quote?
“If the bad days weren’t so bad, then the good days wouldn’t be so good.”
- What’s the most important thing you’ve learned this past year?
Time management. Having a 2 year old and working over 40 hours a week. A schedule is must.
- What’s one of the toughest decisions you’ve had to make?
Deciding to make the commitment to go back to school. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, especially in my state of health at that time. In the end it was the best decision.