Cole Weber, a Biomedical Engineering student at U-M, muses on his motivation for working in healthcare, remaining true to himself, and the power of parental support.
At birth, I almost killed my mom. During the fifty-six hour labor in a Wisconsin blizzard (once again, sorry Mom), she started to hemorrhage to the point where the doctor was flabbergasted she was still awake. If you know my mom, you wouldn’t be surprised. However, through medical intervention, my mom was okay, and her first child—a beautiful baby boy, I may humbly add—was born.
After a doctor in training was thrown to the floor because they tried to turn my neck the wrong way, almost killing me, my mom started to notice that I wasn’t breathing correctly. From there, I was rushed to the NICU because my O2 stats were dropping. I spent two weeks there until I was released, and my godfather/Uncle Tristan drove us home from the hospital. In short, without medicine, my mother and I would not be here.
This laid the foundation of my interest in healthcare. Still to this day, I’m always amazed at our progression in health and medicine and how many lives it has saved. This interest and amazement only furthered as years progressed, and my sisters, mother, and I had different health issues that were all managed and aided by medicine and the research behind it.
My future in medical research became certain when my mom was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). The first few years of her diagnosis were rough. She was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS, where essentially she had periods where her MS quickly progressed, typically resulting in new lesions in her brain or spine. Other times, she’d be in remission, where her MS progressed very slowly.
However, several years ago, my mom started on a new infusion for MS patients called Tysabri. It completely stopped her relapses. She’s been in remission since she started this medication, and frankly, I am so thankful to this day for its creation.
Whenever my sisters and I talk about this infusion, people often respond, “Oh I’m so sorry,” but this medication is easily in my top five favorite things ever. It has helped my mom so much, and it has allowed me to have more time with my mom, which I will be endlessly thankful for. I think Tysabri was the thing to finally push me into medical research. I saw how much a singular treatment impacted my mother’s life, and in turn my sister’s and mine, and I wanted to be able to do that for others. If I could help someone else get even a few more days with their loved ones, I know that my life’s work would be complete. I would be satisfied.
Now, I’m at the University of Michigan studying Biomedical Engineering with plans to go into research and development for medical treatments and medications. While I could exclusively write about how my medical experiences have impacted me, that wouldn’t be the whole story of why I’m here today.
My mom says that she’s known I was gay since I was a toddler. While coming out of the womb wearing a rainbow boa singing Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind” in my best Barbara Streisand impression definitely was a big clue, I have to applaud my mom for being so perceptive. She never told me this until after I came out, though, instead allowing me to just blossom into my own person. Since I came out (and even before that), she has offered nothing but unwavering support for me and my identity. She has not only accepted and loved me for who I am, but she has supported queer friends of mine who didn’t have that same support at home. She impacted so many lives with her kindness and heart, and this truly inspired me.
Because of her support, I was able to get so far. She taught me division and helped me study for exams, but more importantly, she loved me for who I am. This allowed me to have the support I needed to keep going. From age 11 to 18, I lived in Louisiana which I wouldn’t claim to be the most accepting environment for a burgeoning gay kid, but my drive never wavered because my mom was always behind me. Homophobic moms said the nastiest things about me and I was called slurs on social media for being the head speaker at graduation, but I never cared because I had that fundamental support and love. She has helped me be the engineering student I am today, working at the Center of Healthcare Engineering & Patient Safety (CHEPS) at the University of Michigan with a great future and a fundamental happiness that cannot be replaced.
Supporting your child at a fundamental level of who they are is a huge indicator of future success and happiness. Support your trans kids, your gay kids, your bi kids, your lesbian kids! Your love and support will get them so far, and they will in turn impact other people’s lives in the most beautiful positive way. I am where I am now because of that support.
I love you, Mom. I can’t wait to see you soon!
— Written by Cole Weber, CHEPS Student