A visit to the University of New Mexico inspires my son

A teen with hemophilia considers his future after a spontaneous college visit

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by Joe MacDonald |

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Last Friday, my youngest son, Caeleb, and I started our day as usual and ate at one of our favorite restaurants, Barelas Coffee House in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Summer carries a special magic in the MacDonald home. For many years, I’ve enjoyed spending Museum Fridays with my sons, who have hemophilia. We pick a local destination to visit and learn new and interesting things about the area.

As Caeleb and I ate breakfast and laughed with each other, we decided to change course. Instead of exploring a museum, we’d visit the local University of New Mexico (UNM) campus to see if we could talk with any school admissions counselors about the requirements for entering college. Caeleb has expressed interest in film and animation, and UNM has an incredible fine arts program that offers many opportunities to students and alumni.

Paying in-state tuition would dramatically lower our out-of-pocket expenses. Resources available to us as members of the bleeding disorders community help to further reduce the financial burden of college. Caeleb will finish his senior year of high school next May, and he’s already started gathering information regarding possible scholarships. Starting the process early gives us more time to prepare for a successful transition to college.

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We arrived at the university, walked to the Office of Admissions, and discovered a room designated for future students. We wanted to ask for basic information and look at other parts of the school. To our surprise, the man attending the desk asked if we wanted to join the school tour beginning in 15 minutes. I looked to Caeleb, who said he’d love to participate in the excursion.

For the next two hours, we learned almost everything we needed to know about UNM. As we walked, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the beautiful landscape. In the middle of campus is a large duck pond surrounded by different types of trees. The area offered a place for frustrated students to enjoy nature’s beauty without traveling miles away.

As we walked, I noticed Caeleb developed a slight limp. I asked him if he was OK, and he told me his ankle was bothering him. Years of spontaneous internal joint bleeds damaged his right ankle and knee to the point that he has very little, if any, cartilage in his joints. I asked him if he wanted to end the tour, but he insisted on continuing. My son didn’t want hemophilia to rob him of his excitement as he contemplated his academic future.

As we neared the end of our unplanned journey, our guide pointed out the medical facility on campus. I laughed when she said, “If you don’t have insurance, it’s no worry. Doctors charge very little for services, and medication is extremely cheap.” If only she knew how much Blue Cross Blue Shield pays for Caeleb’s hemophilia medication! Having a bleeding disorder isn’t cheap.

As we passed the medical facility, I told my son that it’d be important to inform his university medical team about his condition. If something happened, those providing care must know how to proceed with treatment. Caeleb’s hematologist, Dr. Shirley Abraham, works with the UNM hospital system at the Ted R. Montoya Hemophilia Program and Treatment Center. Providing the college with this important information would help us prepare for unexpected issues.

We finished the tour and walked to our car. As we buckled our seat belts, I asked Caeleb how he liked the school. When he expressed excitement about attending the university, I breathed a sigh of relief, realizing he’d found a place where he could develop his dreams, face a smaller financial burden, and find security in the proximity to his hematologist. We drove away, excited about the possibilities.

Reflecting on our day, I realized that my son’s college search raises more questions than the average student’s. Caeleb has to think about hemophilia and how to protect himself. He can’t ignore medical issues after he leaves the safety net of his home. I hope he stays excited as he embraces endless possibilities.

I laughed as I realized that instead of a museum offering us a glimpse into the past, the college tour had given my son a glimpse into his future.

Note: Hemophilia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Hemophilia News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to hemophilia.


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