‘I didn’t always think I was going to make it’
IF YOU GO:
What: Douglas High School commencement
When: 5:30 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Douglas High School
What: ASPIRE Academy High School commencement
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Douglas County Community and Senior Center, 1329 Waterloo Lane, Gardernville
For many students graduating high school is a milestone of achievement and the stepping stone into the next chapter of their lives. For Douglas High School senior Vanessa Visnovits it’s a ground-breaking moment.
“I have been working toward this moment for nearly seven years and I didn’t always think I was going to make it,” she said.
In 2010, Vanessa suffered a traumatic brain injury while a freshman at White Pine High School in Ely.
On Wednesday, the 22-year-old will walk as Douglas High School’s Individualized Education Program representative with an advanced diploma on Wednesday.
“I honestly just want to save and bottle this feeling and for it to last a lifetime,” she said.
While at White Pine, Vanessa was attacked by another student. The attack forced her eyes into a coma-like state for nearly three years, she said, and she was considered blind. She said the injury also resulted in a rare case of endometriosis — a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus — that eroded her bladder, intestines, appendix and fallopian tubes. She was unable to walk, stand, sit or move more than a muscle.
“Not many people can ever truly understand the amount of pain I had endured for so long,” she said. “The pain would get so unbearable. It was excruciating and immobilizing.”
After the attack Vanessa and her family moved to Gardnerville to be closer to treatment and she enrolled at Douglas. At first, teachers and advisors suggested she work toward a general education diploma because of her condition, but Vanessa was determined to walk across the stage and earn a high school diploma.
“I am now graduating with the highest honors and I’m top of my class,” she said.
Her subjects were taught one-on-one and mostly verbally. She also had to learn to read and write Braille.
“It was odds-defying,” she said. “I am grateful to the faculty and, most importantly, the teachers. It is because of them and the long hours and creativity they put in to help me learn and absorb the material. It is because of them that I am going to be a success in society and my personal life. They are the real superstars.”
Vanessa not only had to re-learn many basic and educational skills, she also endured endless therapy including swimming and a specialized chiropractic therapy.
She now feels like her health has made an 80 percent turn-around. She is still considered legally blind, but she can see for short periods before giving her eyes time to rest. She wears bifocals and special prescription sunglasses due to sensitivity to light. She also can walk and move with less pain.
“I feel like it’s a miracle, truly a miracle of God,” said her mom, Dian Maier-Visnovits. “I am overwhelmed she is able to over come all of this.”
As her health improved, she kept pushing through, Vanessa said.
“I’ve always gave my best in all stages of my health and now I’m just pushing harder,” she said. “No matter what happens, I have the strength, intelligence, dedication, commitment and utmost confidence in myself. No one can ever hold me back.”