‘I am here. I made it to the end’

KimberlyMartin_slide

By Kimberly Martin

Being born to two heroin-addicted parents and having to go through withdrawals as an infant, it’s a wonder that I am here. I am reminded daily that, statistically, none of this was ever in the cards for me. Losing my mom at five and my dad just a few months shy of my receiving my acceptance to law school, I was using everything I had to try to make this work. Without substantial familial or financial support, I enrolled at Howard University School of Law not knowing what to expect. 

In my first semester of law school, I was diagnosed with Epilepsy after having suffered multiple narcoleptic seizures. Two weeks shy of my first set of final exams, I experienced two back-to-back seizures, causing my brain to dump months worth of materials I was working hard to master. Not only did I forget everything I learned, but my physical and emotional being was completely exhausted and wracked with pain – recovering from a two-minute seizure can literally take weeks! Muscles I didn’t know I had were aching. I couldn’t eat because my tongue was bruised and sore. Needless to say, I was given the opportunity to delay my finals, which allowed me time to try to revisit all of the materials my brained dumped WHILE still trying to stay on top of the new materials being introduced to me in my second semester. My grades did not reflect my hard work…but I persevered.

In my second year, I suffered an ulcer perforation at the end of my fall semester day. I knew I was experiencing severe pains in my stomach, but in my efforts to stay on top of things as a student-attorney for the Child Welfare Clinic and law student, I ignored it until it became unbearable. After rushing to the ER twice and being turned away because doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with me, I found myself collapsed on my bedroom floor - alone - after taking 600mm of ibuprofen for pain after yet another seizure. The ibuprofen was prescribed in the aftermath of a previous seizure that I refused to take until I absolutely had no choice, the pain was too bad. Little did I know, I was dealing with a stomach ulcer that was on the brink of breaking. The ibuprofen pushed it over the edge, and, before I knew it, I was in the ICU for seven days, in the hospital for five, receiving a blood transfusion, and (due to COVID) no one could visit me. I woke up to the head doctor at Howard University Hospital telling me he was happy to see me pulling through as my life was a miracle. I almost lost my life. I spent Thanksgiving in the ICU…too grateful to be alive to wallow in depression. Yet again, at the end of a semester that was going so well, my body decided to play devil’s advocate and force me to delay exams and papers and fight to remain in matriculation. 

I am here. I made it to the end…and not without the support and encouragement of my big brother and my close friends. Law school has been a difficult journey for me, but one that I - as a first-generation grad - will never take for granted. 

In my 3rd year, I turned 35 and celebrated one year seizure-free when, previously, I wouldn’t make it three weeks without a seizure. I’ve made countless strides trying to remain in matriculation despite being encouraged to quit or try again another time. I am proud of this accomplishment as I am certain I have changed the trajectory of my entire bloodline going forward. 

At no point was I forced to face these challenges alone. Provided that I was willing to admit that I was struggling, there was always someone somewhere willing to lift me up and help me walk. My brother, Steven, was always a phone call away. One of my close friends that law school gifted me, Teeanna, always jumped at the opportunity to encourage me and let me know that we’re both leaving Howard law as graduates and she wouldn’t have it any other way. 

A quote that has literally carried me is fairly recent. It’s in VP Kamala’s speech: “I may be the first, but I won’t be the last.” Despite the difficulties, I believe this accomplishment and every one to follow, is for those coming behind me and even alongside me. I’m willing to defeat every challenge knowing that it will become easier for someone else. 

Professional Plans: Kimberly Martin plans to join the Children’s Defense Fund as a federal policy associate, become a guardian ad litem and represent children.