Good student on the outside, medical experiment on the inside

Emily Jaynes at the Orientation office, one of her many jobs on campus. Photo by Alina Voronenko.

Emily Jaynes at the Orientation office, one of her many jobs on campus. Photo by Alina Voronenko.

An average 5-foot-3 red head Emily Jaynes seems like a regular WCU student who is not shy to crack a smile or tell a funny story.

Friends flock to her because of her upbeat personality, but only a handful realize the medical challenges she has overcome and is still fighting.

“I have so much go wrong, I’m like a medical experiment,” Jaynes said.

Jaynes has visited the doctor’s office for more than just the flu. She has been diagnosed with Degenerated Disk Disease, Colonic Neuropathy, a broken Patella and Tonsillitis. These medical terms create vague, if any, recollection in our minds. Jaynes has experienced all of them.

What do these medical terms mean?  

Degenerated Disk Disease is a condition where disks in the spinal cord lose water and become thinner resulting in severe back pain. In 2014, while everyone was at home for Christmas break, Jaynes woke up without having any feeling in her right leg.

She spent the break at the hospital having tests run for her back and later underwent surgery to repair the degenerated disk.

“Everyone’s disk is degenerating but mine has jump started. Normally you don’t have symptoms until your late 30s,” Jaynes said.

Her doctor said her disks are genetically weak. Her dad and grandfather faced similar problems. Today, Jaynes has to be aware of the physical activities she does like heavy lifting. Once every three to four weeks, Jaynes visits the doctor for a checkup.

With Colonic Neuropathy, the nerves in the human colon stop working making it impossible to digest food. In 2012, Jaynes was diagnosed with Colonic Neuropathy, which her doctor believes was a result of a swine flu sickness experienced prior to being diagnosed. Swine flu attacks the nerve endings in the large intestine, not allowing the nerves to contract.

Ten Colonic Neuropathy surgeries are performed yearly in the United States. Jaynes was one of 10 people who underwent that surgery.

About twice a year, Jaynes visits the doctor for this medical condition and will sometimes wake up in the morning with severe stomach pain that can last all day.

The Patella is the knee cap and can be fractured or broken into pieces. In 2008, Jaynes bumped into a door in her own house and broke her knee cap. Of all the fractures in a person’s body, there is a 1 percent chance to fracture a Patella.

Tonsillitis is a condition where the tonsils swell to the point that they block air from entering the lungs. This can make it impossible to sleep. In 2002, Jaynes woke up after not being able to breathe. After the doctor ran tests, Jaynes was told she needed surgery to have her tonsils removed.

The idea of dealing with these problems can be overwhelming. It is uncommon for a person to experience a Colonic Neuropathy, but to have three other injuries and diseases added on is what makes Jaynes stand out among the rest.

Jaynes said her parents deal with the medical complications by talking to other people. Jaynes deals with her problems internally in a private setting.

“Mom and dad talk about it, but I probably take it worse internally,” Jaynes said.

She talked about her parents coping with the issues through religion. Her parents lean on support through their church. The members continue to pray for Jaynes and that helps the family deal with her medical conditions.

Jaynes reflects on her own support group and made sure to give them credit. “Religion has a lot to do with it and I have really good friends and my family is just awesome. I have awesome people around me,” she said.

Jaynes is also involved with an on campus ministry that meets every Wednesday where she has the opportunity to help lead the audience in worship.

Campus minister Brian Thomas has known Jaynes for over a year. He sees her as an optimistic individual. “She’s fun, likes to laugh, she’s dependable,” Thomas said. “She stands out as a positive person.”

Defying the odds

Despite Jaynes’ constant battle with her medical conditions, she is an astounding student at Western. She is a sophomore majoring in criminal justice with a minor in social work and leadership and has a 4.0 GPA.

Her involvement within the university excels beyond many college students on campus.

Director of Orientation Tammy Haskett is Jaynes’s current boss and she describes Jaynes as a “passionate” student.

Jaynes took initiative during orientation and surprised Haskett by asking if there were any available positions in the orientation office. Typically, a student waits to begin their freshman semester on campus before looking into available positions.

“Because she took such initiative, I was impressed with that,” Haskett said.

Jaynes latest extracurricular activities include being an office assistant in the Orientation Office, an entourage tour guide, member of the Honors College, student ambassador for the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, President of Reformed University Fellowship and Orientation Counselor.

“Honestly, it’s just a lot of time management. You just have to really be focused making sure you get everything needed to be done, done,” Jaynes said.

Looking ahead, Jaynes hopes to pursue higher education and attend graduate school for social work.

This optimistic 5-foot-3 red head doesn’t allow any medical obstacle stand in her way of living life to her fullest potential.