Meaghan Comer - Virginia Interview by Zoe D’Angelo Nomination by James Comer | Photography by James Comer & Kris Currie Featured in Issue 16 of Inspiring Teens Magazine
The Nomination: Meaghan Comer inspires me daily. She has battled and overcome issues that stem her chronic condition, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. Even though her joints pop out of place easily, she is a member of the University of Mary Washington swim team (try swimming butterfly stroke with one good arm or backstroke with a knee out of joint) where she is a respected member of the team. Her condition also led to bouts of anxiety which she has also overcome. The experience has inspired her to become a childhood developmental therapist so that she can help other children deal with their condition. She learns each day how strong she truly is and yet she still has barely touched the surface of that strength.
How did you become interested in swimming? I became interested in swimming when I was in elementary school. My family signed my younger sister and I up for swim and that's when I fell in love with the sport. I was never an aggressive child so contact sports were difficult for me as I did not want to confront someone for the ball. Swimming allowed me to be competitive but stay in my own element. I have always enjoyed that I can do it on my own and not have to be physically assertive, yet I still have a team that is supportive and makes the sport fun.
Tell us a little bit about your condition. Ehlers Danlos syndrome is a connective tissue disorder affecting the collagen. There are thirteen different types, mine being the hypermobile type. This means that my skin is fragile, it scars and bruises easily and my joints are hypermobile and unstable. It primarily affects me in that I have joint subluxations and dislocations and causes me to dislocate my joints easily. Ehlers Danlos syndrome is a spectrum disorder and affects all those who have it differently.
What are some ways you work around your condition when swimming? I can work around my condition by being open with my coaches and teammates. At the beginning of the season I had a meeting with our head coach at the University of Mary Washington to discuss how we could overcome some of the troubles Ehlers Danlos can cause me. We developed a plan that if I am unable to keep up, due to pain or dislocations I can modify what we are doing, such as by kicking with fins. My teammates are also very supportive. Many of them have learned how to assist me when my shoulder is not correctly in joint or they will go get someone who is able to help me. My teammates have pulled me out of pools when I was unable to get out and they have sat with me when I couldn’t get up. Weight training is also an important aspect of college swimming. Through weight training, I am building the muscles around my joints which helps them stay in place better. I have also started to see our athletic trainer a few times a week to help manage some of my other symptoms. By being open and honest about what I am facing it has opened many opportunities for me to succeed in swimming.
What are your plans for the future? My plans for the near future are to graduate from the University of Mary Washington with my bachelor’s in psychology and go onto graduate school to earn my master’s degree. As I am doing that, I hope to bring more awareness to Ehlers Danlos syndrome and provide support for those who have it as well as educate those who have not heard of it.
Meaghan was featured in Issue 16 of Inspiring Teens Magazine!