DERRY — Through quiet determination and some help from her friends, Josie Lydick overcame a debilitating brain condition to find her shining moment on a local stage.
Just weeks after undergoing brain surgery in November, the Pinkerton Academy senior competed in a talent competition on Jan. 12 at the Derry Opera House. The talent segment was part of the Distinguished Young Woman of New Hampshire for 2014 contest.
Still recovering from the recent surgery, Josie was allowed just 90 seconds by a neurosurgeon to compete in the dance competition. She made every second count and went on to win the entire competition, her mother, Glenna, said.
“She went up on that stage and you couldn’t even tell; it was amazing,” Glenna Lydick said.
Now that she has been named New Hampshire’s Distinguished Young Woman for 2014, Josie is eligible to compete in the national competition that is scheduled to be held in Mobile, Ala., in June. With the award, Josie received $2,150 in scholarship money, Glenna Lydick said.
Winning the award is quite an achievement, but what Josie endured to be able to compete is even more astounding.
Since she was a freshman, Josie has suffered severe migraine headaches, seizures and fainting spells, Glenna Lydick said. She had many hospitalizations and absences from school and repeatedly had to make up missed assignments.Despite the medical setbacks, Josie kept going to school and worked hard to earn good grades and stay active, Glenna Lydick said.
She has been competing in dance since she was about 2 years old and is a member of the New Hampshire Academie of Dance in Londonderry. Among her many other activities, she also serves on the student council and is a member of the National Honor Society. She was granted early admission to Clarkson University in Potstdam, N.Y., which she will begin attending in the fall.
Pinkerton chemistry teacher Anne Hamlon, who has known Josie for several years, had Josie in class last year.
“She is pretty much exactly what you would want in a student,” Hamlon said. “She’s outgoing, she’s interactive, she’s mature — I think having to do probably a lot with what she’s been going through.”
At times, Hamlon said, she saw Josie was suffering from the headaches, but she never complained.
“You could look at her and tell when she’s suffering from one,” Hamlon said. “She never complained and certainly never, ever used it as an excuse for anything.”
Another faculty member, John Breda, a student council adviser, has worked with Josie on the student council.
Breda said he couldn’t believe when Josie actually apologized for missing so many activities following the surgery.
“Her long-term health was so much more important than whether she helped us set up for a dance or attend a meeting,” Breda said.
In the fall, doctors finally determined through an MRI of her brain that Josie was suffering from a condition she was born with called Chiari Malformation. In layman’s terms, her brain descended too far, disrupting the flow of fluid in her brain. This was obviously causing all of the headaches and other symptoms, Glenna Lydick said.
On Nov. 20, she underwent brain surgery that involved the removal of part of her skull and her top vertebrae. The procedure lasted about six hours.
After surgery, she spent five days in the hospital, with two days in the ICU, Glenna Lydick said.
The procedure seemed to have helped her, and she is on the road to recovery. Thankfully, she didn’t have any complications, Josie’s mom said.
“We are very excited and very proud of her,” Glenna Lydick said. “This could have brought a lot of people down, even me. She fought through it, and she is going to do great things.”
Through it all, Josie said she has been motivated to overcome the debilitating condition by several of her friends, who she knows from the New Hampshire Academie of Dance. She said one of her friends even stayed with her on the day of her surgery.
“They are my best friends, and they were there for me, no matter what,” she said.
Josie was also motivated to learn from the experience so that she could one day help other young people who are coping with similar conditions. Josie said she wants to go to college and eventually become a psychologist who focuses on working with adolescents who are experiencing health problems.
“I want to be someone who can help people; that’s all I really want to do,” she said.