Vanessa Smiley

Narcolepsy Community Advocate Vanessa SmileyVanessa is a scientist in the biopharmaceutical industry and a mother of two teenage boys. She graduated from Youngstown State University (Ohio) with a Master’s and Bachelor’s of Science in Chemistry with a focus in Biochemistry. She found out she had mild obstructive sleep apnea and narcolepsy at the age of 37, after being misdiagnosed since about the age of 14. The triggering event may have been from significant chemical exposure due to an accident that impacted her entire family. In spite of the severity of this incident, medical professionals have treated the symptoms of the issue: unexplained illness, excessive exhaustion, chronic pains, emotional distress, yet did not look beyond generalized diagnoses. Due to recurrent migraines and extreme exhaustion from driving, Vanessa finally sought more answers from a neurologist that specialized in sleep disorders.

Since her diagnosis, Vanessa learned that she has type 1, or narcolepsy with cataplexy. One of her teenage children also suffers from obstructive sleep apnea (since age 8) and likely undiagnosed narcolepsy. On her journey to better healthcare for humanity as a scientist, Vanessa found solace in writing and poetry as a means to deal with the many struggles faced since her childhood. She hopes that by sharing her story, others may find a means to better manage their own health.

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