“I’d be lying if I said it was easy” – But Nurse of the Week Madison Jarocha Won’t Allow Life-Threatening Immune Disorder to Stand in Her Way

“I’d be lying if I said it was easy” – But Nurse of the Week Madison Jarocha Won’t Allow Life-Threatening Immune Disorder to Stand in Her Way

It’s well-known—among nurses, at least—that myriads of nurses first recognize their calling when family members or they themselves are being cared for in a hospital. (So, every time you visit the bedside of a young person, you might be “pollinating” a future nurse!). Fortunately, by the time they’re ready for nursing school, most of these people have long since ceased to be patients. Usually, but not always.

Brand-new University of Central Florida College of Nursing grad Madison Jarocha—our Nurse of the Week—has not been able to make a full transition from patient-in-need-of-care to care provider. Being a nurse to her very core, though, multitasking is not a great challenge for her. However, Madison may always live and work with a foot in both worlds.

Madison’s autoimmune disease, acute systemic scleroderma, causes the 21-year-old’s body to create so much excess collagen that it prompts her immune system to engage in take-no-prisoners fights against the invading protein. As a result, her body often goes to war against its own muscles and organs.

“When I was about 15 or 16, I ended up getting hospitalized,” Madison told a CBS reporter. “I was in and out of the hospital since I was like that age and I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. And so I went into nursing because I wanted to help people in the way that the nurses that I had helped me.”

Nurse of the Week Madison Jarocha, BSN.
Nurse of the Week Madison Jarocha, BSN (UCF, 2021)

The disorder didn’t make itself known until Jarocha, then a busy, athletic teen, started unaccountably losing weight and had trouble catching her breath. Her worried mother took her to their family doctor, and from that point onward, the girl’s life changed dramatically. Some 10 to a dozen hospitalizations, chemotherapy, surgery, a missed prom, and–an even more crushing blow—no more sports. She was off the hockey and basketball teams for good. As Jarocha told the AP, “It was honestly awful. I still kind of get upset about it because I feel as if I was never sick, I probably would have been playing sports in college. It definitely was a really big part of me… It definitely was hard to just have that ripped away so fast.”

Yet, somehow Jarocha graduated from high school, entered UCF College of Nursing, and earned her degree right on time. After all, she’s used to forging on while battling an unrelenting series of setbacks, from the surgeries and chemo in high school, to temporarily going blind, breaking a foot, and then being diagnosed with cancer while at college. (Madison plans to become an oncology nurse).

How does she see it? “I would be lying if I said it was easy,” Madison told CBS. “I kind of, sometimes, I portray it as being easy because I want to just keep a positive attitude, because the more I get in my head about it, I feel like it sets me back.”

Her mother is still in awe. “I kind of just said, ‘If anyone can handle this, she can,’” Nicole Jarocha told the AP. “She has the tools to overcome adversity… It was just a day-by-day approach. She learned not to let the thought of tomorrow ruin today.” As Madison puts it, life is “very short,” and she plans to keep living her “best life.” She added, “No matter what happens, I just try to keep a positive attitude.”

If a positive attitude can accomplish THAT much, it might be worth a shot!

For more on Madison, see the in-depth AP story published prior to her graduation. Photos courtesy of CBS.