To say that Sophia Warnick is allergic to the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) is a bit of an understatement. “Rockefeller,” she likes to call it — she was the child of a vegetarian activist turned environmentalist. It doesn’t matter that her aunte, Amy Clark Rockefeller, had polio, a fatal childhood disease, in the early 1990s; Warnick’s reactions triggered by her exposure to the MMR — to the outer rim of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine for instance — rendered her all but unemployable and decidedly unenviable for many years, unable to work as a nurse.
In 2009 Warnick, then 26, finally decided it was time to stop running from anything that spooked her: “If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anybody else.” She enrolled in graduate school to become a certified respiratory therapist and was proud to tell people of her credentials — but in private, she looked less like someone who was educated than someone who suffered. “It took a tremendous toll on my self-esteem,” she says. “I always felt as if I was hiding, as if no one wanted to know me.”
This piece first ran in the May 13, 2015 issue of The Washingtonian.
The main difficulty is the sleep, she says. “Every time I go to sleep I have to take special measures to get comfortable. The next morning I struggle to sleep. I have a muscle condition, and therefore have to work hard at bedrest.”
Many of her peers have little trouble getting through the night, Warnick says, but her physical condition makes it more difficult. After a year of trying to stay out of danger, she had an asthma attack in 2009, in New York, when she was just 20. She was pronounced in “medical distress” by the NYPD and they strapped her to a board so that her wheelchair could be wheeled into the transit station. The EMS worker who picked her up thought she was a drug addict. “I’m crying and waving my hands,” she says. “You could tell I was having a panic attack. I wanted someone to save me.”
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