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Louisiana-born Brandy Duhon, DVM, clinical instructor in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences in the Department of Veterinary Medicine at Louisiana State University (LSU), faced several unique challenges from an early age. When she was only 13 years old, she developed meningococcal meningitis, which resulted in the amputation of both hands and her right heel.
During her keynote address at our Fetch dvm360® virtual conference, Duhon shared the many obstacles she has overcome in realizing her lifelong dream of becoming a veterinarian and how she is using her story to empower other veterinarians with disabilities.
Face the challenges of life
Duhon remembered that he was a relatively healthy child. However, on June 18, 1995, she was diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis, a severe bacterial infection that interrupted the flow of blood in her extremities, resulting in the development of gangrene in her hands and one foot. The traumatic event resulted in the amputation of both hands and the right heel. (The blood clotted under her elbows so she still has some of her forearms.)
Duhon spent several months in the hospital and underwent numerous operations. Despite her challenging situation, she maintained her courageous personality and showed an unwavering positivity. “I really kept my attitude throughout the whole thing. My mom always says [that I] have such a smart attitude, ”she said.
She attributes much of her optimism and strength to her mother, father, and stepmother, who stayed by her side throughout her hospital stay. “I really think it’s because of my family [that] I survived and was so strong throughout the ordeal, ”Duhon explained.
Overcome adversity and achieve goals
Duhon didn’t let her personal struggles stop her from pursuing her passion for veterinary medicine. She was rejected 4 times before receiving a letter of admission from the LSU veterinary school.
“There really isn’t someone without a hand in veterinary or human medicine. Especially a surgeon or someone in charge like me, ”she told the participants.
She knew clinical rotation would be challenging because she had to learn things differently from others, but she didn’t let that stop her. Duhon continued to shine with innovative ways to hold tools and perform veterinary duties. “Just because I couldn’t necessarily do something like everyone else didn’t mean I couldn’t. I had to think outside the box a lot, ”she said.
After graduation, she completed an animal shelter medicine scholarship. She was then employed as a lecturer at LSU, where she currently works in junior surgery and teaches veterinary students the principles of surgery such as castration or castration.
Resilience in mind and body
Duhon faced 2 additional life changing events. In 1999 she developed spinal meningitis and in 2015 she was diagnosed with meningoencephalitis, an inflammation of the brain and its surrounding membranes
“My brain continued to swell and I couldn’t speak, see with my left eye, or walk. I had 1 of my cousins that I was close with [near me] because she was the only one who could understand what I was trying to say, ”she recalls.
Although she only had a 1% chance of living, Duhon once again defied adversity and miraculously recovered. During her recovery, she completed several months of therapy before returning to what she loved and operated on in the mobile unit.
Despite all odds, Duhon’s unwavering spirit has remained intact. She explains how to stay positive. “I stay happy because of the people I am with. I stick with positive people: my family, my friends, people I work with. I live for the others, ”she said. “I spend as much time with them as possible and that makes me happy.”
Duhon provides invaluable advice to people with disabilities in the job. “I think it is very important that people 1. recognize their disabilities and 2. learn to deal with these disabilities and not wear a chip on their shoulder because if you have a chip on your shoulder it will hold you back very much ,” She said.
- Dash, MK Herpetic Meningoencephalitis: Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment. Open Intech. Published on August 30, 2017. Accessed May 14, 2020. https://www.intechopen.com/books/meningoencephalitis-disease-which-requires-optimal-approach-in-emergency-manner/herpes-meningoencephalitis-causes- diagnosis and treatment