“Scott, there is no way you can live on your own. Who will take care of you if your nurse doesn’t show up? Do you really think that insurance will pay for that much nursing care? What if you get sick and need to go to the hospital?” These are the types of questions my mother, nurses, and pretty much everyone else in my life asked when I told them during the Fall of my senior year that I wanted to live on campus if I got accepted to the University of Notre Dame. Despite the fact that no one in my life thought I could do it, and I had a lot of arguments with people over it, I wasn’t going to let their doubts change my mind. My entire life I had had the plan of going off to college, living on my own, and being an independent, successful member of society. That was my dream, and I had worked far too hard and overcome way too much in my 18 years to give up now. If I was going to dream, I was going to dream big.
I knew that it was not going to be easy to figure out the logistics of living in the dorms, if it was possible at all, but if there was a way to make it happen I was going to find it. So, months before I would find out whether I had been accepted or not, with nothing but my dream in hand I started working on the various issues that would need to be addressed in order for me to live on campus. This was a large undertaking with a lot of moving parts, and making things even more difficult was the fact that for the first time I was doing this all on my own without the help or support of my parents. My mom in particular did not think that I could create a safe living situation away from home, so she refused to help me try to figure this out. As much as it hurt to not have the support of my parents, who had always been my biggest advocates, I decided that it was my life, and I was going to do everything in my power to reach my goal. I figured that if you were going to dream a big dream, you would have to give a big effort, and I was going to achieve my dream.
In the midst of my senior year on top of keeping my grades up and trying to get college credit, I started making phone calls and setting up meetings with anyone who I thought could help me live on campus. The largest obstacle that had to be overcome was arranging
around the clock nursing care and finding a way to pay for it. So first, I worked on my insurance provider and Medicaid case manager to make arrangements to pay for the 24 hour nursing care that I would need to live on my own, because if the money wasn’t there everything else was mute. After several denials from both sides, countless hours of phone calls, and lots of haggling back and forth about who would pay for what, I was finally able to mediate an agreement that would work for all parties involved. With the confidence of this initial victory to drive me, I next called my nursing agency, Memorial Home Care. Even though most of my current nurses were planning on continuing to work with me in college, I was going to have to bring several more nurses on board to cover me 24 hours a day. Once I told Memorial that I had already gotten a firm commitment that it would be paid for from my insurance company, and they saw how much money they stood to gain, they were very motivated to help. Over the next few months they advertised for, hired, and oriented several new nurses to my case. This answered the question of who would take care of me if I lived on campus, which was the biggest hurdle facing me. My big dream was starting to become a reality.
The next major issue that had to be addressed was whether there was a dorm room that would accommodate my wheelchair and other needs. Not only was I concerned about how my rather large wheelchair would work in a tiny dorm room, but it also isn’t like I can just roll down to a communal bathroom with my nurse to take a shower. These were issues that needed to be solved for me to make this work. So after emailing and calling several different departments at the university, such as student life, housing, and health services, I finally found the right department to speak to and was able to arrange a meeting with the director of the Office for Students with Disabilities, Steve. During our meeting I found out that of all of the dorm rooms on campus, there was only one that would work for my wheelchair and had a private bathroom. The moment I heard this, I really thought that that was it, and despite my efforts my dream was not going to happen. However, after Steve looked into things a bit, he found that the current student in that room was graduating, and it was open for the Fall. He penciled me in that day, and thanks to my efforts, and a lot of luck, I now had a safe, functional living environment. My big dream was taking shape.
After overcoming these two major obstacles in my path, along with receiving my acceptance letter in April, I just knew that I was going to achieve my big dream. Now, I had a lot more to arrange, like getting a doctor nearby, figuring out how to navigate the dining hall, and plans for dealing with severe weather, but in comparison to what I had already accomplished these seemed like a piece of cake. Through my hard work, a little luck, determination, and my conviction to keep trying to reach my goal even when everyone in my life thought I would fail, I was able to turn my big dream into a reality. I was able to go to Notre Dame, live on my own in the dorms, and receive the same fulfilling, life changing college experience as everyone else. I got the rare opportunity to live my big dream.
A lot of people would have been happy with getting in to their first choice school, and they would have been content to enjoy that much of their dream. This is what everyone in my life wanted me to do. They didn’t want to see me fail and thought that what I had already accomplished was plenty to be proud of, so I should be happy that I achieved that much. I was proud of what I had accomplished, and I was afraid of failing, but I just kept thinking, “What is the point of dreaming, if you don’t dream big and do everything in your power to achieve it?” Isn’t the whole point of dreaming that you can dream whatever you want, no matter how big or farfetched it may be? You should always dream big and make it as perfect as you can imagine. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks or how likely you are to achieve it, because it is a dream. It is your big dream. If you work hard enough, never give up, and receive a little bit of luck, you can be one of the lucky few that not only gets to dream a big dream, but you get to live it.