Kaitlin Morris – Finding Bravery in Unexpected Places

Note: I first met Kaitlin, when I came to Sydney, New South Wales, Australia to speak at the 2010 BEECH Australian Community Conference in June, 2010 – Thomas Exler

YouTube: Mrs. Morris 

Finding Bravery in Unexpected Places

By Kaitlin Morris

Hi there, I am Kaitlin (Sheedy) Morris,  I was born on April 15, 1992 with classic bladder exstrophy.   I had my closure operation at nine months of age. I was born and grew up in the Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia, with my Sister; Elle, Mum; Christine and Father; Michael. One of the most valuable things my parents ever taught me, was that I may be different medically, but that didn’t mean my life ever needed to be different than anyone else’s.  They made it their mission to ensure that my life was as ‘normal’ as normal can be.

When I went to school, my parents, specialist, principle and myself all made the decision to inform my classmates of my condition.  This was in hopes that I wouldn’t have to tell them myself and risk having the awkward conversations with classmates as to why I was away from school so often.  This left the door open for a lot of criticism and bullying, but it also meant that from a young age, I knew how to gauge and appreciate people who were my real friends and people who would be there to stick up for me, when I needed them.

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It also taught me to be able to look at myself and love myself, just the way I am.  It took a lot of years and a lot of soul searching to truly come to terms with the fact that my condition was not something that anyone could control.  I was also very lucky to not only have an amazing family, but amazing friends that my parents had made, living so far from their families, it was important to have such influential people in our lives.  People who shaped me, into the woman I have become.

When I was 13, I had my augmentation surgery.  It honestly, was the best decision we could have made. Up until this point, I had, had around 30 operations at the John Hunter Hospital, Newcastle, NSW.  Which was two hours away from where we lived.  Taking on full time catherization at an age where changing habits was hard, it was difficult for me to understand the importance of cleanliness and hygiene.  This led to years of UTI’s and kidney infections.  When I was around 19, I had to go to the emergency room in excruciating pain from a UTI that had traveled to my kidneys.  It took a few days before I felt like myself again and was out of pain.  That was very much the moment when I realized how important it was to look after myself and my health.

In 2010, Mum and I had been invited to a Bladder Exstrophy (BEECHAC) conference in Sydney, Australia. I had only ever met one person before with BE and it was only the year before. I was almost 18 and had felt so alone in this journey for so long. When we arrived at the conference, I couldn’t believe how many people were there. We spent the next few days hearing stories from other BE people, doctors, professors and more. It was one of the best experiences I had ever had.
From there came the biannual kids camps. When these started I was still in high school and not classed as a child anymore. One of the organizers suggested I attend as a volunteer instead, so that I could still attend, but be more involved in the running of the activities and such. What an experience that was. I met some of the most wonderful kids and their families. We shared stories of our struggles and it gave me the opportunity to give advice and share my experiences with parents who might feel a little lost in the BE world. I now attend every camp to help give the support that we didn’t have the opportunity to have when I was younger.

When I left school, I made the leap to go to University.  Although, the University life did not last all that long, I did take on the lifestyle of a university student. Taking huge steps out of my comfort zone, meeting new people, friends that I am still close with now & taking on career opportunities that took me over the east coast of Australia. I began working in a large pharmacy chain and then moved to a pharmacy that would allow more growth in my career. In 2013, my Mum had a brain aneurysm rupture whilst in a work meeting. She was rushed to the John Hunter Hospital two hours away. Luckily, my sister and I were both working in Newcastle, not far from the hospital. I received the phone call from my sister and immediate left work racing to the hospital. Trying not to cry on the way and then trying not to yell under my breath because I couldn’t find a park when I got there. I finally found a park, ran up to the emergency room to be told Mum had not gotten there yet.

The Triage Nurse told me where I could stand to see the Ambulances coming in and I should be able to see her arrive.  So, I went out to the entrance and waited until I saw her being wheeled out of the ambulance.  Twenty-four hours later, Mum underwent brain surgery, where they found another two brain aneurysms.  One of these ruptured whilst she was in surgery, meaning the four-hour surgery was extended to closer to ten hours.

After Mum came out of hospital almost a month later, she went to the rehab facility, where she regained her strength in her muscles and worked on being able to do everyday activities again.  Mum and Dad at this point, had to make the decision and try and financial afford for someone to come and care for Mum throughout the day whilst Dad was at work.  Now, at this time, Dad was working for an ammunition transport company, so he traveled all over the country for his work.  Dad was telling us about the options they had, as we were walking over from the hospital visitors’ cottages to the hospital. I stopped in my tracks and said, “I am going to move home”.  Dad looked at me as if I had lost my mind.  He told me that although he appreciated the gesture, it wasn’t necessary for me to pack my life up and move back home.  By this stage in the conversation, I had made up my mind.  There was not anything that was going to stop me from coming home to help my parents.

So, that’s just what I did. I moved home and start working night shifts at the local golf club.  So that I could look after Mum during the day when Dad was at work.  Now, Mum was very capable of feeding, bathing and looking after herself in terms of basic needs.  But when it came to house work, cooking or driving, these were things she was still working on getting back into.  I remember so clearly, how frustrated she would get when she realized, she needed help doing the things that she had always done for herself.

Fast forward a few years, Mum was doing much better, but my mental state had taken a turn for the worst. I made the rash decision to apply for a job in Brisbane, QLD after I ended up in hospital for a mental breakdown.  Mum and I traveled up together for Christmas with her Family and for me to attend my interview in the city. It was a wonderful trip away and before we went home a few days later, I had received the phone call to say that I had been successful in landing the new job. I was so excited. It was time for me to take a step forward into my future and begin to work on myself and my mental health. Its very much safe to say, that Brisbane didn’t quite work out the way I had planned and a lot of that, had to do with how young and immature I was. I really don’t think I was ready when I took that leap, and I felt the crash. In true Kaitlin style, I sure picked myself up and dusted myself off.

Before I moved to Brisbane, I had met a guy named Dillon through a friend. I ended up inviting him to my farewell drinks at the local pub.  We had some really good banter and ended up messaging almost every day when I moved. We would speak when we woke up, on our lunch breaks and then until we fell asleep at night.  Looking back now, I think it is so funny, because I hadn’t thought too much into it, other than that we were just friends.  A few months went by and Dillon then asked me if I would like to go to his 21st birthday, which he was travelling to Brisbane for.  His friends from further up North were meeting him there and they were going to be going out to the clubs in the city.  I agreed and spent days deciding on outfits, hair styles, accessories and shoes.  I didn’t understand why I was so nervous. I just put it down to my anxiety getting the best of me. We went out with his friends and had a great night out.

A fortnight later was my Dads birthday and I had booked flights home to surprise him. Anyone who ever knew my father, knows he was always the hardest person to surprise. Mum and my sister had organised for all of Dads friends to go out to a little Italian restaurant that Dad loved. I surprised him at the hotel and both of us has tears running down our faces. It was in that moment that I realized I needed to come home. I had felt so alone in Brisbane and having that feeling of being loved and appreciated as soon as I saw Dad, really spoke to me.

So, I went back to Brisbane on the Monday and handed in my notice. I told Dillon that I was coming back, and I couldn’t wait to feel at home again. Dillon then preceded to tell me that when I got home, he wanted to ‘snatch me up’. I didn’t quiet understand if he was saying what I thought he might have been. So, I point blank asked him. He then told me that when I got home, he wanted to take me out on a date. I couldn’t believe it and I was so, so excited.

Fast forward, five years, we are now married and trying for our first child. The last few years have been tough, but it has also been some of the most rewarding years as well. In January 2017, my father, the light of my life and one of my biggest supporters, took his own life. I can still remember finding out, I still remember the pain that shot through my chest and down my arms and to my legs. The numbness came after that. I promised myself that I would do everything in my power to ensure that this would not happen to another family. I miss him every day and I wish more than nothing else that I could bring him home. So, whilst we have had the joy of getting engaged, married and purchased our first home together in the last few years, it is hard to know that we have done it without Dad being here to witness it. In Dads honor in May 2017, I ran a half marathon (Well, most of it) in support and to help raise funds for Suicide prevention Australia. I tell you what. That was the hardest physical challenge I have ever put my body through, but also the most rewarding.

We currently are seeing a fertility specialist, along with a team of urologists and renal specialists to be able to fall pregnant. We had been trying naturally for over a year, but my left fallopian tube was removed due to an infection during my augmentation surgery. We have had testing to ensure that the right tube is open and healthy, which it is, thankfully. Currently we are almost a year and a half into our trying to conceive journey and we hope our miracle comes to us soon. We can’t wait to be able to share our lives with a precious little bub and I cannot wait to teach them how to fight for what they want in life. I have searched for everything under the sun on the internet for ‘pregnancy in BE’ and it is something that I have not been able to find much information on. Which can be quiet disheartening, to feel like you are alone going through infertility with underlying conditions. So, I decided that I would start documenting my journey on YouTube, for myself and for BE people just like me, who might need to hear some sort of hope filled story. I have also begun documenting our journey on Instagram as well. I hope that at some point, my story might be able to help and inspire other people just like me.

Throughout my life, I have dealt with obstacles, disappointments and heart ache. But I have always stood back up, brushed myself off and continued to fight for a good life, because I know that I deserve it. I’m here to tell you that you can too. My husband and I live in a small country town, along with my Mother who lives around the corner, my sister in-law and her family. We own our own home, which we are currently, slowly renovating ourselves. I work full time, take holidays, go to concerts, go out with friend and just enjoy life as it comes. I encourage you to live your best life always, because you deserve it.

© Kaitlin Morris and Courage to Shine™

You can get a hold of Kaitlin Morris



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