Haggstrom overcomes painPublished 11:00am Thursday, May 30, 2013
For Fergus Falls senior Tessa Haggstrom, Friday’s graduation comes after much more than four years of high school.
In September of 2011, Tessa started to experience headaches and other severe symptoms. She was in the emergency room three times a week and visited a number of doctors to find a cause as she struggled through her junior year.
Tessa was later diagnosed with POTS, an autonomic nervous system disorder which causes her pain.
She moved to Rochester with her mother and lived at the Ronald McDonald House for a month. While there, she participated in a rehabilitation program at the Mayo clinic and learned to manage her pain from the disorder.
She had missed nearly 70 days of school and had doubts about her senior year.
“We didn’t know how she was going to be, if she could play soccer, be in marching band or anything,” her mother, Judi, said.
During that time,
however, Tessa used the challenge to define her life in a positive light.
“She could have curled up and crawled into a hole after experiencing the pain she has endured,” Judi said. “I’ve found that Tessa decided she wasn’t going to do that.”
The program wasn’t easy and involved a variety of therapy sessions that lasted from early morning into the evening.
“It was like a job,” Tessa said.
The program often left her exhausted as she learned to manage her condition. She still deals with symptoms to this day.
Through it all, Tessa stayed up to date on her school work and made the Honor Roll, was inducted into the National Honors Society and was enrolled as a PSEO student her senior year. She also met a new best friend from Owatonna and connected with teens in the program from across the country.
A year later, Tessa stood in line to receive a scholarship at the annual Dollars for Scholars banquet. She was excited to receive a scholarship, but had not been told how much it was worth.
“They didn’t tell me at all until the banquet,” Tessa said. “I didn’t even know until I started opening the envelope.”
Tessa received the Conrad G. Blegstad Scholarship, the organization’s largest scholarship and first to offer continuous award money. She will receive $2,500 dollars each year for up to five years while she maintains a 3.0 average.
After her experience at the Mayo Clinic and Ronald McDonald House, Tessa was inspired to help others the way she had been helped through her difficult time.
With math and science as her two strongest subjects, she will attend the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and study biomedical engineering. She said she hopes to someday make medical advancements that will help others with difficult health conditions. She is also interested in stem cell research.
Graduation will certainly be bittersweet for the Haggstrom family, but the joy and bonding they’ve had together through their adversity will keep the day positive.
“I guess I’m in a different frame of mind than what I hear from other moms,” Judi said. “I’m just more happy she’s doing what she is doing in regards to living her life and moving forward. I am so proud of her.”
For Tessa, college will be a new adventure away from home. But most of all, it will be a chance to move on from such a difficult year.
“Oh, I’m so excited. It will be a change,” Tessa said. “It’s going to be like a new life.”