The next time you feel the urge to complain about your five minute walk across campus, think twice. Or maybe you’re dripping wet after a run to catch the school shuttle, zip it. Because, for some, these abilities are luxuries only hoped for.
“It’s better to be safe than sorry” is a common phrase many live by, but Rider University’s rising senior Colleen Barringer begs to differ.
Majoring in fine arts with a concentration in music, Barringer believes, “It's better to live and learn than miss out on something because of a silly fear.”
At birth, Barringer was diagnosed with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a collagen deficiency that affects bone strength, causing them to be extremely fragile.
“When I was younger, I would break my bones a lot more often than I do now, so I consider myself really lucky,” she said.
While Barringer is optimistic about her medical condition, she has had her fair share of challenges.
Her first broken bone happened before her first birthday. The cause baffled doctors as they tried to understand how and why an infant frequently broke her legs. After tests and many hospital visits, doctors told Barringer’s mother to keep her bound to a wheelchair in effort to avoid “more pain and broken bones.”
Her mother did the very opposite. “Thankfully my mom didn’t take their advice and I have a pretty normal life because of it,” she said.
Even though Barringer has manageably endured the extra burden of worrying about her physical activities, it has unquestionably added a great deal of stress to her life. She has managed to break a bone every spring semester since starting college.
“First it was my femur, then tibia, then I managed to fracture my skull,” she said as she reflected on her medical journey, “and right now I’m working with a broken pelvis.” All of these injuries resulted in her taking one semester off.
But, luckily, being proactive has gone a long way for her. Professors have been very flexible. Being able to work from home has allowed her to keep up with course assignments.
As a matter of fact, when Barringer is in good health, she drives ten minutes to campus and is permitted to park in the professors’ lot, eliminating a decent chunk of walking. And other than utilizing the elevator when they are available, according to Barringer, she goes “through pretty regular daily actions.”
For Barringer, the struggle is not physical. “My challenges always seem to be related to my ability to trust my instincts without letting them monopolize my actions,” she said.
Barringer recognizes that playing it safe, “sitting a home on my sofa rather than going to a concert with my friends” is much more physically promising, but she said she’s not “willing to compromise [her] life experiences because of [her] disability.”
In reality being active does the very opposite for her, rather, she said it helps her learn more about her disability as well as familiarize herself of her limits.
In addition to optimism, music goes a long way. “Music gets me through a lot,” said the music major. “I sing, play guitar and write my own songs.”
Though Barringer doesn’t know exactly where life will take her post graduation, she said her career will involve music.
She performs live shows with her friends and continues to add original songs and covers to her YouTube page for publicity.
Surely, her fragile bones add a unique sound to her life.