Holly Dunlap

At age 21, Holly Dunlap was a college student and new mother, when a mysterious illness turned her life upside down.

About a month after her son’s birth, Holly found herself paralyzed. Severe nerve damage had taken over her body, and her kidneys quit functioning. Even after a myriad of procedures, including brain surgery and a partial lung removal, doctors were still uncertain of the cause.

Holly would be in a wheelchair for two years before she found a doctor who changed her prognosis. “She looked at my chart and said, ‘I think I know what’s wrong with you.’” The doctor suspected Holly had celiac disease. Within a week of taking B-12 injections, Holly stood up for the first time in two years. “I just kept going with [the injections], and no more medicines, nothing,” she said.

Spending years in and out of the hospital put many of Holly’s plans on hold, including her education. Now that her disease is under control, the Arkansas native has returned to school, and she’s more determined than ever to finish her degree. She is working toward her Bachelor of Business Administration in management through UA Little Rock Online.

Now one of her biggest challenges is managing her time, as she fits school work in between her and her now 10-year-old son’s schedule. With Holly’s son homeschooling, the two work alongside each other. “He streams his class, [and] I’m streaming mine,” she said. “We’re doing our work together, and then if we have errands to run in the afternoon, we take a short break.”

When thinking about her future career, Holly looks to her past for inspiration. For many years, she worked as a head teller at a bank, and her love of the industry is still there. She is now considering going into banking and finance law.

“Being able to come back to school and be able to move and do these things has really been empowering, and just I feel like I’ve done it.”

Advice for Students

“It’s not as difficult as you think it’s going to be. It’s difficult in the beginning, trying to figure out how to plan for things, and ‘How much time do I need to allot to this?,’ or for me it was getting back to studying. It’s almost like you kind of forget how to study things, and you have to remember ‘Ok, so I need to make notecards for this,’ and ‘I need to read this extra well,’ and things like that.

So, you know, that would be the hard part, but just do it. Once you get in and get going, it’s so easy, and the teachers care. I’ve had one teacher this semester call me from her cellphone, and say ‘I know you’ve had a lot going. I don’t want you to be out there. If you need something, call me.’ So that was just very reassuring. I didn’t think it would be like that with online classes.”

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