Noteworthy

Mother. Student. Advocate.

Posted on April 24, 2013

by Holly Walker

Jennifer Silva wants to teach you three words: tuberous sclerosis complex. If you’re like most people, you’ve never heard of this medical condition, also known as TSC. Jennifer understands that. She too was unaware of this disease until her son, Jared, was diagnosed with TSC when he was 18-months old, nine months after he suffered his first seizure. TSC is a disease that causes tumor growths in organs such as the heart, brain, lungs, kidneys and skin. In Jared’s case, TSC has caused three brain tumors, and because of them, he suffers from seizures and learning and behavioral problems. He’s also been diagnosed with autism. TSC is considered rare, but Jennifer says more and more people are being diagnosed with it. So, in addition to caring for her son, Jennifer is taking steps to raise awareness of and funds for TSC, and she’s doing all of this while studying to become a nurse at John Tyler Community College.

Jennifer says becoming a nurse has been a lifelong dream of hers. She put that dream aside for a while to focus on Jared’s care, but she didn’t turn her back on medicine. She took a job at a veterinary clinic and worked there for seven years before concluding that she really wanted to work with humans. That’s when she turned to John Tyler Community College. Jennifer, who lives in Prince George, says the College’s location, its flexible scheduling, and the way it welcomes older students made it possible for her to go to college and to succeed. She says the support she’s received has been amazing. “That is one of the best things about John Tyler,” she says. “The faculty and staff really show an interest in their students.”

Jennifer is currently in the Nursing Program’s hybrid track, which she says has given her the flexibility to juggle coursework with her responsibilities at home. Her goal is to graduate in December 2014 and to then work on a bachelor’s and a master’s degree at Virginia Commonwealth University or Old Dominion University. She hopes to one day use her skills to teach or to work in a clinic that specializes in the care of TSC patients.

In the meantime, she continues to advocate for TSC awareness and research. She is currently chair of Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance of Virginia and works closely with those who are newly diagnosed with TSC. She and Jared, who is now 11, recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with members of Virginia’s Congressional delegation to discuss the need to continue funding of a grant that supports the Tuberous Sclerosis Complex Research Program at the Department of Defense. During that trip, they met with Sen. Tim Kaine and Rep. Randy Forbes as well as with the health liaison aides for Rep. Bobby Scott and Rep. Bob Goodlatte. Jennifer says funding for research into this disease is crucial. She points to her own son as proof. Jared, who had been facing the possibility of several brain surgeries, is currently responding well to a new chemotherapy pill. She says she is grateful for the research and the pharmaceutical companies who have helped develop this medication. But, she says, not every TSC patient responds to it, so there is still a long way to help all those impacted by TSC.

To learn more about TSC and the research into the disease, visit http://cdmrp.army.mil/tscrp/.

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