Imagine an ideal senior year of high school where everything goes according to plan. Picture being picked as an all-star athlete for both soccer and basketball while simultaneously maintaining a budding social life. Imagine planning the next steps after high school. College may even be on the horizon.
This was the life of Kayla Storr prior to an uncontrollable circumstance that would soon change her perspective for the rest of her life.
“Everything was going as I had planned it,” said Storr. She added, “I got officially accepted to LBC a week before I got sick.”
One weekend in high school, Storr felt flu-like symptoms, but she insisted on playing in a tournament with her basketball team. She ended up injuring her hip in the first game, putting her out for the rest of the tournament.
Quickly upon returning home, a seemingly bizarre chain of events soon began to unfold, unraveling any sense of normal. Storr developed a cough that prevented her from sleeping for four consecutive nights. In hopes to relieve this exhaustion, she took a dose of Nyquil.
“After that night, things took a turn for a worse,” she recalled.
Paranoia, weariness, instability, and primarily confusion soon began to take a hold of her life, making it difficult to maintain her typical routine. School became nearly impossible during the beginning stages of all the chaos.
Her physical and cognitive function rapidly declined, as well as her ability to do things on her own.
Storr’s change in demeanor did not go unnoticed by anyone that knew her prior to this ‘new normal.’ Her parents, Chris and Sara Storr, sought to take whatever measures were necessary to determine what was happening to their daughter.
Doctors ran tests, the parents consulted with them, but they could determine no conclusion.
With few answers, Storr decided to try school once again. During one of her classes, her mind distorted reality and she suspected a classmate was mad at her. Because of this paranoia, she began to yell and cry while sitting there, which led to being escorted out of the classroom.
She remembered asking her parents, “What’s happening to me?”
On April 2, 2016, Storr was officially admitted to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).
On April 18, two weeks after being admitted, doctors discovered a diagnosis thanks to their diligence and persistence on Storr’s case.
Diagnosis: Autoimmune Encephalitis
This rare disease occurs when one’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy brain cells, leading to inflammation of the brain. Like Storr, people with autoimmune encephalitis experience a variety of neurological and psychiatric symptoms.
Storr remained an overnight patient at CHOP for fifty more consecutive days. She then transitioned to be a day hospital patient for thirty more days. Her parents drove an hour every day, Monday through Friday, for physical, occupational and speech therapy.
After medical intervention with her diagnosis, she soon began to find some sense of normalcy. She underwent a total of seventeen intense and taxing treatments over the course of two years, which gradually spaced out as time went on.
She had her last treatment in January 2018, which doctors said would be the last one she would need. With this new development in her medical journey, college started to become a viable option again.
Over the past couple years, Storr was able to eventually have a job where she worked as a nanny for four different families. The only conflicting moments where when she would have to take a week off at a time to recover from treatments.
“My health was my focus for the past two years,” exclaimed Storr. She added, “I got used to everyone doing everything for me and had to adjust to doing things on my own again.”
As for college, she always knew she wanted to go back to school, but it was always a matter of when.
“It kept being pushed off until God opened every door again,” she said.
Storr made the decision to go to LBC in February 2018, if God would continue to permit it.
The doors seemed to keep opening with her last checkup in August 2018 being the final push to pursue school and validating that nothing was holding her back anymore.
After having to delay her college career, her emotions about returning to school were filled with excitement to leave home, gain independence and have a change of pace and scenery.
Some might view such an ordeal as terrible. Storr has a different perspective.
“I think I would go through it again (if given the choice),” she said. “The pain was awful, but I gained an entirely different view on life, how precious life is, and how everything can be taken away in a second. It made me into the person I am today.”
Storr is majoring in Social Work here at LBC, which is a decision primarily driven by the experience she went through. Her dream job would be to work at the same hospital where she was a patient. Although a terrifying experience, she grew to love the people and environment that did everything to help her.
“I want to give back to the place that gave me hope,” said Storr.
Storr explained her ordeal also gave her the ability to relate to those with similar situations. She recalled being able to talk to a mother of a three-year-old who was going through the same thing and was able to show this family hope.
“It was a rewarding experience,” said Storr. She added, “Through this I learned that, in every trial God gives you, there’s a lesson. Big or small, there is a blessing. You can’t see it while you’re going through it, but at the end it will make sense.”
She continued, “You might be mad at God during it, but you have to be open to considering why God is allowing this lesson.”
“No matter what you’re going through,” she advised, “remember the power of prayer.”
Featured image credit: Abby Kennedy
Mid-photo credit: Debbie Norris.
Description: The Storr Family wait during Kayla’s (center) recover.