Disease inspires local woman to become nurse
By Shelley Davis
SNELLVILLE — As a child, Melissa Allen wanted to put Crohn's disease behind her. But she couldn't shake memories of the tender care she got from nurses during her countless childhood doctor visits.
When the Snellville native starts her first job next week at Children's Hospital in Birmingham, Ala., she'll be following in the footsteps of her childhood heroes.
"Because of Crohn's disease, I had been in and out of the hospital and grew up around the medical atmosphere," Allen said. "I wanted to help other kids the way they helped me. I wanted to be like they were."
Allen graduated with her 34 classmates from the University of Alabama's nursing school on May 10. She made it through the program in four years, despite undergoing two major operations since last summer, and was named the college's most outstanding senior.
Crohn's disease, which causes inflammation throughout the entire digestive tract, doesn't affect Allen as much as it did in middle and high school, she said. She was diagnosed with Crohn's when she was 11.
An operation during her senior year of high school cleared up many of her complications, but she sticks to a regimen that includes daily medications and a strict diet.
"I've had a few ups and downs along the way. But I can't say it's stopped me and can't say it's gotten in my way. I'm a very stubborn person and won't let it," Allen said.
A lifetime of interacting with nurses has helped give Allen an edge over other new nurses, said her adviser Angela Collins.
The Brookwood High School graduate plans on staying in Alabama for a few years, but it's too early to say whether she'll return to her hometown.