FORTVILLE — Brittany Patrick doesn’t feel like she’s missed out on anything.
Despite a number of setbacks over the last four years that could have permanently sidelined her from doing what she loved,
Patrick powered through the obstacles set in her path. Now, she is preparing to graduate with the rest of Mt. Vernon High School’s 2014 senior class.
For the 18 year old, there was nothing more important in high school than following her passion for music. When she was a freshman, she joined the high school’s marching band with plans to pursue it all the way through her four years. From her time at Mt. Comfort Elementary, Patrick knew music was in her future.
“As a freshman, I really wanted to try it,” Patrick said. “I had heard nothing but good things about it. I fell in love with it after my first year. Nothing could keep me away,”
But a wild series of events occasionally slowed her down.
At the band’s summer “Rookie Camp,” where new students spend the first few weeks of their marching band season meeting the older students and learning the basics, Patrick experienced her first setback.
“I came down with a severe case of whooping cough. Mine was the only case in the entire school district,” Patrick said.
Whooping cough is a very contagious respiratory tract infection that is usually marked by a hacking cough. There is a vaccine, but immunity occasionally fades.
The illness put Patrick out of marching band commission for about two weeks, which was especially upsetting since marching in the band was something Patrick had looked forward to for a long time.
She was quarantined in her bedroom at home for about two weeks and directed to take a long break from marching band after recovery. But that wasn’t really an option for Patrick, who was eager to return despite doctors’ recommendations that she take it easy.
“We were telling her she’ll probably have to drop out of band, but she was persistent,” her mother, Kim Patrick, said. “She persevered. She was going to stick with it.”
Patrick did not want to slow down, and her parents did not stand in her way.
“I told (the doctors) there was no way I could do that, that there has to be a way I can keep doing this,” Patrick said. “I decided that I’m a freshman, and I didn’t have time to take it easy.”
With lots of medication and an inhaler nearby, Patrick was able to return to the marching band.
“I still jumped into it full force,” she said.
At the time, Patrick was playing baritone, a heavy low-pitched brass instrument.
“That’s the hardest they say to march,” she said. “I really had no other choice but to pick it up and get through it.”
For the first few months, Patrick had to take frequent breaks when she was winded during practice. She equated it to walking around with severe asthma, which made playing her instrument difficult, on top of the marching that went along with it.
And it’s not something she’ll ever be able to fully recover from. Her lungs are permanently scarred from the whooping cough.
“It’s something I have to deal with when I have heavy workouts and a little bit during marching band all four years,” Patrick said.
Then the hits kept on coming.
Her sophomore year, in the middle of the marching band season in September, Patrick was diagnosed with a severe case of bronchitis. She was still in the healing process from the year before, and the bronchitis took its toll.
“It stopped me,” Patrick said.
She missed school for almost two weeks, and when she was back, she found she was frequently short of breath and coughing. Still, she powered through.
For years, Patrick had experienced trouble with her hands but never gave it much thought. The summer before her junior year, Patrick found out during physical therapy that she had arthritis in all of her fingers, all of her toes and both wrists, as well as tendonitis and carpal tunnel, a condition that causes numbness and tingling caused by a pinched nerve.
“I’m going to be struggling with the arthritis most likely for the rest of my life,” she said.
She later found out the problems were the result of medication she was on at the time.
“I was marching (with only) my mouthpiece the entire summer and into the fall,” Patrick said. “I probably did not pick up my baritone again to march it until we got into football season.”
For awhile, her senior year looked like smooth sailing. That was until Patrick broke her foot. Fortunately for the band enthusiast, it was not marching season.
Patrick is part of the band’s indoor drumline. After a big performance, band students were cleaning up and assembling the large tarp supplied by the Indiana Percussion Association that normally covers the entire gymnasium floor and allows the band students to bring their instruments to the gym.
They were folding it up and trying to put the tarp onto a cart. The cart moved and ran over Patrick’s foot, breaking it. She was in a boot for two months while the break healed.
For the indoor drumline, Patrick has played chimes and bells. During her senior year, her instrument required the use of a pedal, which proved difficult but not impossible for Patrick.
“The foot I had to stand on was my broken foot,” she said.
Students and instructors said they were in awe of Patrick’s dedication to the band.
“She was a trooper all the way through it,” Mt. Vernon High School band director Jason Gardner said. “She never let that become an excuse to opt out of performing. She did it with a smile on her face, and that was a great example for a lot of the other kids around her.”
Her friendliness and commitment to the band made Patrick one of the pillars of the group.
“She was one of the most incredibly friendly kids we’ve had in band.” Gardner said. “She was very responsible and very reliable. We put her on the leadership team because she did a great job of making the younger students feel really welcome.”
It can be intimidating for a young freshman to join the ranks of the high school band and suddenly be required to march and play music in the hot sun. They usually felt better when Patrick was around.
“It was always great for them to know they had friendly faces they could go to and ask for help and encourage them,” Gardner said.
She has led by example.
“We couldn’t be more proud of the way she’s gone on and done almost everything band has to offer,” Kim Patrick said.
Patrick is heading to Manchester University this fall and will major in chemistry-biology for the school’s pre-pharmacy program.
And music will remain part of her life. She plans to either minor or double major in instrumental music.
In spite of several illnesses and injuries that might have led someone else in her position to give up, Patrick approached her recoveries with optimism and hopefulness, all the while keeping in mind that her work with the high school band was more important than feeling lousy.
“It’s just not something I wanted to give up,” she said. “It never stopped me from doing what I needed to do. Music is probably one of the most important things in my life.”