Courtney Gabrus is a 26-year-old advocate for inclusion and empowerment for people with disabilities.
Gabrus has muscular dystrophy, which is an inherited disease that’s caused by a lack of protein in the body and can damage and weaken muscles over time.
“Growing up with muscular dystrophy is challenging because it is a very slow process,” Gabrus told In The Know.
While she was able to hit her milestones when she was little, middle school and high school proved to be more difficult. She was excluded from things as her muscular dystrophy became more physically demanding. Gabrus eventually started using a scooter to get around.
Then, Gabrus and her mother moved from New York to Florida after she received a scholarship to the University of Florida.
“I loved my school. I was obsessed with my school. I had so many friends. Then one day just ripped all of that away from me,” she said.
But then, over Thanksgiving break, Gabrus picked up a virus.
“I felt that I [was] gonna have a heart attack,” she recalled. “I woke my mom up, like, ‘Let’s go to the hospital.’ Boom. I did not wake up until four days later. I had a stroke, I couldn’t speak and my left side of my body was paralyzed. It was a trapped in your body experience.”
There wasn’t just a physical toll. Gabrus experienced a serious depression believing the stroke would “absolutely ruin” her life. Her leg recovered during physical therapy, but she still faced the challenge of regaining her speech. But she and her mother were determined. They set goals and Gabrus got better and better.
“I said, ‘Mom, I don’t want to see anyone in the position that I was in,'” Gabrus explained. “So when I got my voice back, I posted about my life [on social media], talked about my depression. I just talk about the issues I’m facing.”
Gabrus says the stroke took her filter away, but that only means she is able to truly speak her mind.
“I’m making the way for the young generation to proceed with accessibility and inclusion,” she said.
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