What It’s Been Like – Living With Wolfram Syndrome

Hello, Hola, Tung, Ciao, Bon Jour!

Photo of Lauren Gibilisco, Wolfram syndrome patient

In honor of the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day holiday. This was me from last year.

Recently I was contacted by someone who works with me. Her nephew’s girlfriend needed to write about someone with a disability. Of course she thought of me. Who better to pick from then someone with more than one disability?

I received a phone call from her and she introduced herself and told me what she needed for the report. I told her I had Wolfram syndrome. Her first questions were at what age I was diagnosed which I said was 12 when I was finally diagnosed with Wolfram syndrome but had diabetes mellitus at age 2, hearing loss age 5, vision loss and diabetes insipidus age 11.

She wanted to know if I had been treated differently by anyone because of my disease. I told her yes. In High School the teachers were great and made accommodations that I needed. I only had a few friends in high school. A lot of kids thought I was faking. They were nice to me but only a few went out of their way to help me. No one offered me rides home and to go shopping or to go to school activities. I was home alone a lot. You see my disabilities weren’t VISIBLE. They didn’t know how much was wrong with me because all the problems were inside of me. If I had lost a leg then people can see and will help you. They didn’t know all my problems with choking, ataxia, heat intolerance, seizures, fatigue, bladder issues, hearing loss, vision loss, etc. All of these problems at that time were invisible. Then in college I didn’t start using my cane until my last year. It wasn’t that I couldn’t see some but had become adept at counting doors, counting steps and feeling my way around. My Human Service Director thought I was even faking because I could do things so easily. I was able to have my text books downloaded and had computer software then read me the words. In spite of my disabilities I was able to have been ranked 8th in my high school and was a member of Phi Theta Kappa in college.

I told her about the lack of research when I was first diagnosed and now how much research is being done in St. Louis with Dr. Fumi and his team. When I was diagnosed there was very little written about Wolfram syndrome. My mom spent hours on the computer researching it and was able with another Wolfram parent to start the very first web page with a support group. It was how we were able to meet more people. I also told her that now I have several friends from all over the world. They are in England, Spain, Switzerland and Italy, Canada, Australia and of course the US. What is great is that I can actually see them and talk with them through Skype. It is fun talking to them although their accents sometimes make it difficult to hear. I also told her about the Snow Foundation and my blogs on their website so she could read them and get a better feel of who I am.

I told her of my desire to be a cop but I didn’t think they would give me a car or gun since I am blind.   When I was younger I had different dreams for myself but sometimes you have to change your dreams to fit life.

She asked me how I am doing now in my life. I said “As far as I see”, I am doing well. Haha.

Goodbye, Adios, Tung, Ciao, Au Revoir