Sarah Trent, a Bristol native and current ETSU graduate school student, was born with a condition that left her colon paralyzed.

“It was something I was born with and struggled with for many years, but it kind of became my normal because I didn’t know what normal looked like,” said Trent.

While struggling with her own health issues, Trent also served as her mother’s primary caregiver. Trent’s mother has a rare disorder known as Loeys-Dietz that affects the connective tissue throughout the body. There were less than 100 known cases of Loeys-Dietz when Trent’s mother was first diagnosed.

“Growing up, I saw that if you don’t have a diagnosis, then it might as well not exist,” she said. “So, it was really difficult to try to get people to see that I had issues and my mother had issues, and I was trying to juggle the both of them.”

Trent was eventually able to find a doctor who specialized in her condition at the University of North Carolina and eventually had surgery to remove her colon.

After her surgery, Trent decided to return to ETSU to pursue her master’s degree, due to encouragement from many people in the Communication and Performance department, who had kept in contact with her through her health struggles.

“After I realized that my life had been at a stand-still because of my health, I came to the realization that I needed to have something to look forward to,” said Trent. “So, I reconnected with some of the people in the graduate program.”

According to Trent, she became interested in communication studies when she did her minor in the department as an undergraduate.

“It’s not just about how you get up and give a speech, because that’s not really it at all,” said Trent. “It’s about the science of how we communicate, who we communicate to and then the inequities in those things.”

In her time away from campus, Trent loves playing video games, attending church and spending time at the gym.

“There’s a sense of comradery there,” said Trent. “You see people and eventually get to know those people and enjoy seeing them day to day.”

Trent, is now focused on health communication, and says she feels fortunate to have the language to describe her health experiences and notes that many others around the world do not.

“I love the idea of being able to find people who need their story told and getting it out there,” she said.