Despite massive health setbacks, Hollins University student nears graduation

Her health forced her to drop out of college four different times

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – A Hollins University student is finishing up her last semester of school after years of battling an unimaginable health journey that almost took her life.

Morgan Donelson lives out her passion with a paintbrush, using every stroke to tell a story, including her own.

“I really like to use my art as sort of a therapeutic process,” explained Donelson.

During Donelson’s sophomore year at Hollins University, she was diagnosed with idiopathic intracranial hypertension, a rare disorder related to high pressure in the brain, causing symptoms of a brain tumor.

“Without treatment, it leads to permanent vision loss and blindness, which as an artist, is like the worst disability that I could think of for myself,” Donelson said. “I was in the hospital having spinal taps and then the next day, I went back to class and took my exams.”

Complications from Donelson’s condition led to eight spinal taps, three brain surgeries, two hernias, hundreds of medications, a seizure disorder, sepsis and PTSD, among other issues.

Her health forced her to drop out of college four different times.

Now, after an uphill battle and putting her life on hold, she’s back and just a few months away from graduation.

"I’m really proud,” Donelson said.

It’s a moment her fiancé, Travis Hipes, thought he might never see.

"It's so hard to think that just a couple years ago we were really struggling with everything and now it's all coming together," Hipes said.

Donelson's health struggles are far from over, but she's channeling her pain with her purpose.

"I look at the art that I make and the way that people say that I inspire them and that really just makes it worth it for me to keep going," Donelson said.

"The sky's the limit now, right? I think she can do anything she wants," Hipes said.

"What I want more than anything is to say that I did it and I didn't let it stop me," Donelson said.

Proof that healing is an art.

Donelson hopes to one day become a teacher or art therapist so she can help people learn to channel their trauma too.

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