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BCHS Graduate Refuses To Let Illness Dictate Her Life

Olivia Fleming

Many students struggled with the disconnected nature of Distance Learning, but being able to log into classes from home made life a lot easier for Buhach Colony High senior Olivia Fleming. Olivia grew up chronically ill and was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) when she was a sophomore. EDS is a debilitating genetic disorder that affects the connective tissue in the joints, causing them to dislocate often. 

“I grew up knowing that I wasn’t built like other kids and that physical therapy was going to be a life-long thing for me,” said Olivia.

Olivia’s physical struggles were compounded by her battle with depression. Being told constantly that her condition would only gradually worsen took a toll on her mental health to the point that she lost the motivation to do much of anything. Olivia cites several low points, but she never completely gave up thanks to the amount of love and support she received. Eventually, she would seek treatment for her depression.

“It was a whole process that took a while, but once I started getting treatment I was able to focus again on school and stay on top of things,” said Olivia. “I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family and friends.”

Pandemic notwithstanding, Olivia has thrived during her senior year where she held a 4.0 grade point average and managed to complete a college course as well. She still struggled with attendance, but her teachers and site administrators were very accommodating which allowed Olivia to turn in all of her assignments.

“I can’t thank all of my teachers and the entire staff at Buhach enough,” said Olivia. “They’ve all been so amazing.” 

Olivia also came back out of her shell, singing in the school talent show this year and winning first place. A four-year band and choir member, she was no stranger to performing, however, a bad talent show experience her sophomore year had Olivia second-guessing herself. But because the event was online, participants were able to record themselves over and over until they were happy with their performances prior to submitting. This new wrinkle appealed to Olivia, but she didn’t think that she would actually win. 

“The thing about me winning, is that people who voted for me didn’t see my neck brace and not everyone knew about my medical condition,” said Olivia. “They just picked me because of my talent.” 

Now able to focus on the positive, Olivia has found a new purpose. She hopes one day to work with kids who have cancer so she can provide them with the same love and support that she received. After graduation, she plans to take summer classes at Merced College and begin chipping away at the prerequisites required prior to enrolling in the school’s nursing program. 

“What motivates me the most now is the desire to give back to the medical field,” said Olivia. “I also want to make my family and friends proud.” 


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