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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

NW student stays positive in face of life challenges

Kaitee+Albin+plans+to+study+psychology+and+wants+to+make+a+difference+in+people%E2%80%99s+lives+by+sharing+the+lessons+she%E2%80%99s+learned+by+overcoming+personal+pain.%0D%0ADavid+Reid%2FThe+Collegian
Kaitee Albin plans to study psychology and wants to make a difference in people’s lives by sharing the lessons she’s learned by overcoming personal pain. David Reid/The Collegian

By Taylor Jensen/reporter

Kaitee Albin plans to study psychology and wants to make a difference in people’s lives by sharing the lessons she’s learned by overcoming personal pain.
David Reid/The Collegian

There is a look of determination in Kaitee Albin’s eyes. It’s lunchtime, and Albin is violently playing Ms. Pac-Man in the small arcade of a CiCi’s restaurant.

An unknown boy watches the NW student in silence and wonder as she wins yet another level. He is confused and a little jealous.

Albin has only part of her left arm, but this does not stop her from earning the high score on a game that people with two arms find frustrating. As if she could sense his disbelief, she looks up from her game and winks.

Albin was born with a left arm that stops at the elbow. Without her left hand, Albin still tries to maintain a positive attitude. She is a firm believer in not just overcoming obstacles that stand in her way, but learning something from each and every one.

“I was born without my left hand, but I acted like it was there, and it was really frustrating as a child,” Albin said. “I had to go to Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for therapy since I was a baby, and I still visit.”

Kaitee had to be taught things like crawling and holding a bottle in her therapy sessions.

“My family and friends helped make sure that, yes, I was missing a hand, but not any opportunities,” she said.

Albin’s mom, Janie Albin, remembers her daughter at that age and how proud she was of her, even then.

“I remember Kaitee watching the other kids peeling open their Oreos for the icing and then trying to open her own,” Janie Albin said. “I thought she needed help, but before I could even get over there, she already had icing on her face.”

Janie Albin says her daughter has never stopped surprising her with her ability to do anything.

“I have always been independent, and I like to deal with things by myself,” Kaitee Albin said. “I mean I wouldn’t be such a bad-ass if I had to ask for help.”

However, Albin’s love of independence was met with some difficulty when she reached middle school. In seventh grade, a basketball coach told her she couldn’t play on the team because she couldn’t do a left-handed layup.

“I love sports, especially basketball, and after leaving a state championship team to play for my school, it was upsetting to know they wouldn’t let me,” she said.

Even though Albin was accepted on another team and then played for her school the next year, she says she will never forget it.

“It was the first time I was ever told I couldn’t do something,” she said.

Not long after, Albin said she began to hang out with the wrong crowd. She was hospitalized for a knee injury she received in track and given a pain medication she eventually became dependent upon.

“I had a lot of friends but felt completely alone,” she said. “I started feeling pressure from my friends to take pills, and I eventually realized that my body was hooked on pain medication.”

Albin was sent to therapy and admits that during that time, she didn’t let anyone know who she truly was for fear she would not be accepted.

“The psychiatrist in me thinks I was taking the pills to mask my emotions, and at that age, there were so many transformations in my life, and I couldn’t keep up,” she said.

During her junior year, Albin again began to feel pressure when she decided to add cheerleading to her extracurricular activities.

“I felt like I wasn’t at a figure to play track, basketball and cheerleading,” she said. “I wanted to lose fat, not weight, so I started throwing up two to four times a day.”

Albin continued this for about six months before she and her family realized how ill she was.

“It was a control thing, obsessive, and I wasn’t prepared for the consequences,” she said.

Albin’s doctor diagnosed her with Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disease that now controls how much, when and what she eats.

Albin’s treatment is an infusion of a drug into her bloodstream, once every eight weeks, which takes more than four hours to administer. The drug drastically lowers her immune system, her appetite and her energy.

“Putting my family through this was the worst part because I remember how blindsided they were by the bulimia,” she said. “I could just look at them and tell they were disappointed. They knew I was stronger than this.”

A healthier and wiser Albin is now in her last semester at NW working to obtain a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She believes she gained little in her experience with therapy and wants to better help others overcome their difficulties while retaining a positive attitude. Her ultimate goal is to combine the way a comedian makes someone feel with the healing a psychiatrist can provide.

“I want to make you pee your pants from laughter and then ask you how that made you feel,” she said.

Albin’s younger brother Larry is all too familiar with her sense of humor and says he admires how she sets goals for herself and then completes them with ease.

“She always finds time to be at my games or anything important to me,” he said. “I can always count on her, and she helps me through things she has already been through.”

With all her projects, Albin still waits tables at Chili’s, where she loves to meet new people and enjoys the looks on their faces when she balances a heavy tray of food on her left arm.

Co-worker Jackie Hitchcock says Albin is not just an amazing person to work with but also an amazing friend to have.

“Everybody always gets along with Kaitee, and she is friendly and loves to make the customers laugh,” she said.

Albin said she loves communicating with others and believes when people get knocked down, there is always a reason to get back up.

“You have to get up and not let stupid things keep you down or complain about things you have no control over because it’s a waste of life,” she said.

A look of determination is almost always present in Albin’s eyes, and she uses this same determination and driving force to beat the expectations others have ofher capabilities.

She uses this force to overcome her mistakes and even to win a level of Ms. Pac-Man.

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