“I Didn’t Think That I Would Make It Here.” Woman Becomes MD In The Same Hospital Where She Survived 6 Brain Surgeries And A Stroke. “Never Underestimate Someone With A Disability.”

Dr Claudia Martinez in hospital and on her graduation day from medical school

Many doctors go their whole career without truly understanding what it feels like to be lying in a hospital bed themselves.

That won’t be the case for Dr. Claudia Martinez, a third-year resident physician at TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital in Houston, Texas. Claudia knows exactly what it feels like to need advanced medical care because she spent a year learning how to walk, talk, and feed herself within those very walls.

Claudia was studying pre-med at the University of Houston when she started having headaches and losing consciousness. She received a diagnosis of Chiari malformation which meant her brain was too large for her skull and was pressing into the spinal cord. She ultimately needed to have six brain surgeries.

Then, after her sixth surgery, she suffered a stroke that left her paralyzed from the neck down.

Claudia was left “unable to function from the neck down.” She spent the next year at TIRR Memorial Hermann having extensive speech, occupational, and physical therapies. Although there were moments when fear and doubt crept into her mind, she worked diligently to not only regain her physicality, but to continue with her medical studies.

“There was a point when I was at TIRR that I was like, ‘I didn’t think that I would make it here,'” she admitted. “But I was very persistent, and I wanted to prove not to other people, but just to myself that I could do this. I worked harder than my classmates because I never wanted my disability or my medical illness to define me or have other people let me kind of slide by with doing less, just because I had a disability or was in the hospital so long.”

Claudia’s medical team encouraged her to finish her degree, which she did in May 2020. After graduation, she changed her specialty due to lingering issues with her hands.

Instead of practicing surgery as she’d planned, she decided to become a a physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) physician like the ones that helped get her back on her feet. She even accepted a residency at the same hospital! Now, she’s bringing her first-hand knowledge navigating the medical system to her work.

“I’m very thankful for that experience and getting to now share what I know with patients and better help them,” she said.

Now that her health problems are behind her, Claudia hopes to spread an important message to others about living with disabilities: “Disabilities don’t define the capability of a person.”

“Never underestimate someone with a disability,” she continued. “There’s so much that they can do and they have so much worth to bring to the world. Sometimes we just need to have a little compassion and patience and now that I’m here being a physician, there [are] so many things that I do differently than my colleagues just because I have a disability, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t do the things they do.”

What an incredible journey! It’s inspiring to see that, despite the odds, Claudia is on a path to following her dreams. We wish her all the best as she uses the perspective she gained to better care for others.

Don’t forget to share Claudia’s journey with a friend.

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