by Megan Alexander
Olivia Burdick jumped out of bed one Christmas morning in restlessly expectation. Just nine years old, she could barely contain herself as she awaited the opening of gifts and what was sure to be a holiday feast fit for royalty. Instead, Olivia awoke to a day full of anxiety and fear. A day landing her family not around the radiant evergreen, but rather sitting for endless hours in an emergency room. Her mother, Melissa Burdick, woke up that morning unable to walk or even feel her legs. A few days later Melissa Burdick was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
Olivia became her mother’s primary caretaker. She learned to help her mom with her weekly injections, and oversee many other chores around the house.
“Seeing my mother every day triumphing in her battle with MS is my greatest inspiration,” says Olivia.
Witnessing her mother’s challenges made Olivia work hard in her academics and extracurricular activities, and motivated her to pursue a career as a physician’s assistant.
“I would consider myself successful in life if I could do what my mother’s doctors have done for her: provide patients with surgeries and treatments that would save them or better their quality of life,” Olivia says.
A native of Waterford, Olivia is a member of the Medical Careers Club, Class Council and Key Club. She volunteers and shadows at a local hospital. She competed in French at an event in Quebec called International Comp Dictee des Ameriques. Olivia graduated this spring from Waterford High School, and she plans to attend the UConn Avery Point Campus in Groton, as a biology major.
“It is a pleasure to, along with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, award this scholarship to such a bright and compassionate young woman,” says Lisa Gerrol, President and Chief Professional Officer of the CT Chapter. “Ms. Burdick has demonstrated an exceptional ability to aptly express the challenges facing a family affected by MS, while remaining hopeful and positive.”
More then 6,000 CT residents, like Melissa Burdick, battle the potentially debilitating effects of multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease affecting the central nervous system. There is no cure. Funds donated to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, CT Chapter, ensure ongoing scientific research to find better treatments and a cure. These funds also provide for vital programs and services for those in CT living with MS.
Upon receiving the letter announcing her award, Olivia’s excitement could be heard around the neighborhood. “When I opened it, I screamed!” Olivia recalls. “My mother has become my greatest role model by inspiring me with her unrelenting strength and optimism, stirring me to face challenges and encouraging me to excel in school and in other aspects of my life. Multiple sclerosis has defeated neither my mother nor myself, but has only made us stronger.”
The National MS Society Scholarship program is offered yearly to vocational, technical or college-bound, high school seniors diagnosed with multiple sclerosis or whose parent has MS. Applications can be downloaded by going to www.nationalmssociety.org. For more information, please contact the CT Chapter at 860.714.2300 or visit www.ctfightsms.org.