2019 Intestinal Malrotation Scholarship Recipient
The Intestinal Malrotation Foundation is pleased to announce the recipient of its first annual college scholarship award. IMF has selected Gillian Gallets of the Rochester Institute of Technology as the recipient of its 2019 award in the amount of $500.
After being forced to put her college plans on hold while dealing with intestinal malrotation, Gillian has just started her second year at the Rochester Institute of Technology where she is studying Industrial Design and Packaging Science. She is also a Front End Coordinator at Wegmans and is highly involved with their sustainability team. In the future Gillian is planning to continue to work with Wegmans to help make their packaging more sustainable and eco-friendly.
Can you tell us about your experience with intestinal malrotation?
I was diagnosed with intestinal malrotation three years ago at the age of 18 during my first semester of college. Being sick made me put college on hold for a year and a half, which was very hard for me because I had been so excited for school. I experienced depression during this time and I give my family all the credit for helping me through it. I had surgery with Dr Kareem at Cleveland Clinic two years ago.
How has intestinal malrotation affected your education and college plans?
Having to put school on hold for a year and a half made me realize how thankful I am to be able to attend college. I enjoy my classes a lot more and study harder. I want to be a successful designer and am driven to work hard to achieve that. I think that this whole experience has made me enjoy everything so much more. I am excited for my future and to see where life takes me.
What life lessons have you learned due to your diagnosis of intestinal malrotation?
I have learned so much about myself and life in general throughout this whole experience. I have learned that I am stronger than I thought I ever could be and that it is also okay to not be strong every second of the day. Sometimes it is okay to cry, but you need to be able to pick yourself back up and it is okay to ask for help with that. I have learned that you never truly know what someone is going through in their life so it is important to be kind and caring to everyone.
How has intestinal malrotation affected your personal life?
When people looked at me they could not tell how sick I was and when they found out they were shocked to hear everything I had been through. I lost a lot of friends along the way because they did not understand what it was like for me. I did not look sick and I tried to hide how much pain I was in. I have made some amazing friends who also have malrotation and it is nice to be able to talk to someone who knows exactly what you are going through. Talking with someone who will listen can be the most helpful thing.
How have you given back to the malrotation community?
I have people contact me asking about my experience and asking me questions about my surgery. I try to do everything I can to help these people because I was once in their position. I was scared and sick and if answering their questions helps them then I am more than happy to do so. The malrotation community is such a supportive group. We are all always rooting for each other and helping one another out.
How has having intestinal malrotation changed your future?
I believe that this surgery was my second chance at life. Some days when I am feeling down about something, I think of everything that I have been through and how strong I had to be. This gives me the motivation to be a better person and not take life for granted. Having malrotation was the scariest thing I have had to face in my life but I believe it has made me a better person. It changes your point of view on life and motivates you to keep pushing through the hard times. I am very thankful for everything that I have been through.
A few words from others about Gillian:
“I met Gillian through the intestinal malrotation support group… I ended up in intestinal failure and on total parenteral nutrition for nine months before my surgery. During that time, Gillian was one of my biggest supports. She took time on a regular basis to check in with me and was always a message away if I needed some reassurance or someone to vent to. When I was recovering from surgery in Cleveland, Gillian and her mom Sheila, drove from their home in Rochester to meet my family and I in person. This is a prime example of how thoughtful she is, always willing to go above and beyond for others.
When Gillian started to look into school programs, we spent so much time chatting about her future and what program would be right for her. As an educator myself, I see so much maturity and dedication in Gillian. She is focused on her studies, her family, her friends and will go out of her way to make strangers feel supported.
I cannot think of a better recipient for the Intestinal Malrotation Foundation scholarship. She is such a positive role model for younger people who have malrotation and an inspiration to others who have gone through similar experiences.” - Andrea, adult with intestinal malrotation
“When I met Gillian, she had already had her surgery. She was open about it and shared her experience with me, someone who had never heard of intestinal malrotation before.
Gillian educates those around her. She dedicated a class assignment to featuring others who underwent the same surgery and their stories. She did this by personally reaching out to the individuals and listening to their experiences.
Even while managing both a heavy class load and a job, she is an incredibly thoughtful and giving person. She will offer her little free time, and often coffee, to friends who need support. I’ve also volunteered with Gillian and seen how she gives whatever she’s doing 100%.” -Tess, classmate at Rochester Institute of Technology