UH Student, Single Mother of Special Needs Child Receives Master's Degree
HOUSTON - A University of Houston graduate and single mother of a special needs child has received her master’s degree after overcoming many obstacles the average college student has never endured.
Taylor Williams, 24, of Dallas, crossed the stage as family cheered in relief after spending many nights in the hospital with her daughter Grace, 2, who has suffered from six different medical conditions since she was born.
Williams said she received her bachelor’s degree in psychology at Texas Women's University in Denton and decided to take on the masters of education in Houston because she wanted to focus on preventive measures and keep children from heading down the wrong path. The summer before graduate school, Williams said she found out she was pregnant.
"I graduated undergrad and two months later I found out I was pregnant. I really just thought, what am I going to do? My plan was to go back to school but I really just thought my dreams were shattered and I was really distraught about it, but I have a very strong support system," Williams said.
She said her mother and aunt backed her up 110 percent. Williams said with their help, she was able to push through and continue her education.
Williams said her pregnancy was pretty normal the first few months until her last trimester when she found out her fluids were dropping and having trouble staying up.
"It was really nothing I could do. It was kind of like I had a bad placenta -- you don't really get to choose your placenta. So towards the end, I was hospitalized," she said.
Williams said she was scheduled for an emergency cesarean and her daughter, Grace, was born two months early. Little did Williams know, that was the beginning to many other challenges.
"From there the complications just trickled on. We found out she has heart disease, her heart was not completely developed before she was born," Williams said. "She was also born with an airway obstruction, and those were her two major diagnoses being in the neonatal ICU."
Grace stopped breathing during the night.
While in school, Williams said she was finally able to take her daughter home after being in the hospital for four months, but ended up right back in the emergency room after Grace stopped breathing during the night.
"When we left the NICU, we actually left without her tracheotomy, which is just another airway for her to get more air in and out of her lungs," Williams said. "So when we left the NICU, she kind of got a little congested and with the congestion on top of the airway obstruction, which means her airways are really tiny. She actually stopped breathing in her sleep.
She said when that happened, Grace suffered from a brain injury, and from there she developed a syndrome called paroxysmal sympathetic Hyperactivity and also developed epilepsy and found herself back out PICU, which is a pediatric ICU. Grace now has to use her trachea to breath.
Williams spent most of her college days and nights in the hospital not only worrying about her daughter surviving throughout the night, but also passing her exams for school.
Taking care of a special needs child is already hard enough on parents, but Williams had to do it as a single mother after Grace's father left her because of her complications.
"Initially, he was involved but it was a lot for him to handle with her care and other things he had going on. So now, yes I am a single mother," she said.
Grace's conditions require her to have at-home care and therapy sessions every day and a team of doctors to help Grace’s transition as she overcomes certain diseases. Even though Williams has medical insurance and Medicaid for Grace, she said they still don't cover the cost for Grace's medical bills.
"Honestly my medical debt -- I couldn't even tell you. It's through the roof. It's probably more than my student loans, and I've been in school for quite a while," she said.
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