CEDARVILLE — Cedarville University nursing student Rachel Lynch’s life changed when she discovered that her diagnosis of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) could be a blessing to others instead of a mark of brokenness.
Lynch, a junior from Lebanon, was diagnosed with Type 3 EDS when she was 11 years old. EDS causes a mutation in the body’s collagen, a protein in the body that essentially acts as the glue for connective tissues in the ligaments, skin, joints, blood vessels and organs. When collagen is defective, this “glue” becomes like rubber, causing these parts of the body to function improperly. Lynch experiences fatigue, easily bruised skin, joint dislocations and chronic pain on a daily basis. Following the diagnosis, Lynch was placed in physical and occupational therapy, where she worked to retrain her muscles to move and grasp properly.
Lynch struggled fitting in at junior high school.
“I didn’t want to be seen as weak or different, and so I tried to hide who I really was,” she said. As a result, she passed through her junior high and high school years virtually invisible, and viewed her diagnosis as a “crippling flaw to God’s purpose in my life.”
Lynch followed her mother’s footsteps and decided to attend Cedarville University, where she was eager to grow in her faith and establish new relationships with like-minded Christian students. The community she found was stronger than she imagined. “People don’t look at me differently because of the diagnosis,” she said. “They don’t treat me like I’m broken; they treat me like another child of God.”
Transitioning to Cedarville provided Lynch with a community to support and encourage her walk with the Lord in the midst of EDS. She has established a community of friends and mentors to reaffirm who she is in Christ, which has encouraged her to consider EDS a blessing that enables her to serve others. Instead of viewing EDS as a flaw to overcome, she now views EDS as a grace to embrace.
“I am blessed with EDS. It is hard to be thankful for it, but I am thankful, because it challenges me to rely on God more. It also allows me to see the value of community and the value of Cedarville,” Lynch said.
Lynch has not allowed her diagnosis to keep her from serving.
“Now that I know who I am in Christ, I can be more others-focused,” Lynch said. She currently serves on the Ministry Council for CU Outreach, and has served on mission trips to Peru and Uganda.
Partially because of her EDS diagnosis, Lynch made the decision to pursue nursing. It is her own past experiences as a patient that drive her to be a better nurse, one who expresses compassion and extra empathy for the patients she serves.
“Being able to serve other people who are patients while being a patient myself is something that God has given me a passion for,” she explained. “If I didn’t have EDS, I don’t think I would be going in to nursing. I can empathize with my patients, and I can be what I wish I would have had.” Lynch desires to pursue missions overseas following graduation.
While taking junior nursing classes at Cedarville, Lynch continues to fully dislocate and partially dislocate her joints 40-50 times a day, endure chronic pain and fatigue, experience heart palpitations, and manage nausea and lightheadedness when she stands. She makes small adjustments to her daily routine in order to maneuver through her days of classes and clinicals. Yet, despite the challenges that her illness presents, she has found her source of comfort in Christ. “Who he is makes life worth living, not whatever condition I am in. It is by the grace of God that I can be in pain and still know he is good.”