Sarah Kratt is an outstanding student by any standard. The 18-year-old La Crescent High School senior has a 3.78 grade-point average, a high class ranking and a resume of extracurricular activities and service work that would impress any college admissions office.
And with her bubbly personality and optimistic outlook, it’s difficult to imagine Sarah ever experiencing any pain.
But there was a time when pain ruled her life and the prospect of ever being “normal” again seemed out of reach.
Sarah is the La Crescent High School winner of the La Crosse Tribune’s Extra Effort awards for her perseverance in the face of illness.
Sarah was diagnosed with regional sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) in seventh grade. The chronic pain condition began in her left leg and rendered her bedridden and required her to use a wheelchair by eighth grade.
“It was hard being out of school,” Sarah said, but the pain made it impossible to get through the day.
Sarah attended classes on and off for the first half of her freshman and sophomore years. Her leg seemed to be improving, but the pain in her back was getting worse.
Oddly enough, relief came in the form of another diagnosis, said her mother, Jill Colbert. Doctors discovered that Sarah had been suffering from Lyme disease, which was aggravating her RSD and preventing her recovery.
“Finally knowing what was wrong meant that Sarah could finally get better,” Colbert said.
But the road to recovery took work. Sarah balanced three daily physical therapy sessions with a modified course load to keep her on pace with the rest of her class. It would have been easy for her to give up and fall behind, but she worked through the pain.
“I was motivated by the desire to be normal,” she said. “I didn’t want people to think of me as some kind of sick person.”
La Crescent High School is unusual in that it offers online hybrid classes, Principal Rick Wolter said. The flexibility allowed Sarah to work at her own pace. She followed an IEP, an individualized education program, and worked with a team of teachers to stay on pace with the rest of her class while she was ill.
“They pushed when she needed to be pushed, and they pulled her along when she needed to be pulled along,” Wolter said.
Now, going into her last semester of high school, Sarah is just excited to be graduating and walking across the stage to receive her diploma, free of pain.
She has been accepted at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, but she is also considering the University of Iowa, Viterbo University, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and the University of Minnesota.
Wherever she ends up, Sarah plans to pursue a career in the medical field. Inspired by her own battle with RSD, Sarah wants to use what she learned through the experience to help others recover.
“It made me focus more on what I’ve learned,” Sarah said. “It made me dedicated and responsible.”