College Life: Lessons Learned

I had the privilege to catch up with Laelah Ndifon this month. Laelah is currently a junior at Washington State University.

Laelah graduated in 2014 from John F. Kennedy Catholic High School and she was so excited to be accepted at WSU. She was really looking forward to finally being independent and exercising unlimited freedom. She was nervous, however, about getting sick while away from home. So alongside her parents Laelah began to take the steps needed to get everything in place be successful and healthy at Pulman. First she had to find a new primary care and hematologist near campus and because Laelah had experienced both a seizure and stroke during her high school years she needed to set up monthly blood transfusions. The nearest physician and facility is located in Spokane and hour away from campus. Her parents setup up to come every month to take Laelah to her transfusion, which also meant she had to setup accommodations on campus in order to take off every month for the day and day(s) after her infusions to recover. To setup these accommodations Laelah worked with the social worker at Odessa Brown and the WSU Health/Wellness Center. She also received accommodations for additional time with testing and assignments. Laelah prepared to start her college career!

During her freshman year Laelah said that “management came easy. I took 12 credits. My roommates were all in the same classes. We had a buddy system in the dorms. I felt like I could help and get help from others easily.” Laelah’s two older brothers also attend WSU. Her oldest brother is very social and he always introduced her to new people so finding friends became pretty easy too. During freshman year Laelah kept up with her doctors appointments. She also worked hard to eat well. “ I gave up pork, white bread and white rice.” A basic meal would be salmon, quinoa, and vegetables and fruits and nuts for a snack. “ I felt healthy and balanced.”

Laelah started off Sophomore year just a eager and ready! She decided to take 15 credits and declared her major in Communication and Films and was off to great start of the year. As the days progressed however, Laelah’s health began to decline. Her transfusions had changed fro 8 units to 6 units of blood. She began to feel more and more fatigued. “ I started to sleep for hours at a time. I couldn’t get up!” She also noted that she was not eating as healthy and working out as regularly. Laelah began to come late to class and the fatigue got so bad she started missing her classes entirely. Although her professors tried to be understanding Laelah had forgot to update her accommodations paperwork with Health/Wellness Center and therefore in time she had to withdrawal from some of her classes. ‘I learned that taking 15 credits was not practical for me.” She decided to go back to taking 12 credits and she was able to pass all her courses that semester. Laelah was still battling intense fatigue. She was able to attend classes but would sleep the rest of the day. Laelah decided to take off this semester to really address her fatigue.

Now home , Laelah is working to really identify the cause(s) of her fatigue. She is really considering moving from transfusions to hydroxedrea. Her and her family are both a bit apprehensive about the change but Laelah is excited about the idea of not having to take off once a month on the hour trek to Spokane. Laelah is planning to get back to school in the fall and one day will be a publicist and a documentary film director or music video film director or maybe BOTH!

It was truly a pleasure getting to catch up with such an incredibly resilient young woman. Laelah truly inspires us all to never let go of your dreams no matter what obstacles get in the way. “ It doesn’t matter how long it takes or if you need to take a break. Take the break to take care of yourself. School will always be there. Your health might not be. Have a positive mindset and you can do anything!” Laelah Ndifon


Some lesson learned through her journey.

  • I thought in college I could whatever I wanted, but I have learned I have to manage my time and not do everything.
  • Taking a full credit load may not always be the best option.
  • Work with your social work and campus Disabilities and/or Wellness Center to establish the accommodation you need for you to be successful before you start school.
  • Immediately update your accommodations if your health changes.
  • Ask for help when you need it, do not keep it to yourself.
  • Be careful when trying to add a workout routine to your days. (Laelah tried doing the Insanity workout after her stroke. She overextended herself and had a really bad pain crisis.
  • Listen to your body and take a break when you need to.
  • Consider what you are eating. Might be helpful to work with a Dietitian or Nutritionist.
  • Fatigue can be a real hindrance in performance. It is really important to address it early.
  • Never give up on your goals.