Lauren Keeley
Lauren Keeley
Lauren Keeley, a top student in the class of 2014 at Connelly School of the Holy Child in Potomac, knows all about faith and trust. Those values have helped her endure medical challenges in her life, and thrive afterward, and she hopes one day to become a doctor, to help others like she has been helped.

"When I think of faith, you're always believing," said Keeley, who attends Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Potomac with her parents and two younger brothers. "With what I've gone through, you have to have that. You have to trust in these people (in the medical profession). There's a parallel. You always have to trust in God. You can't see Him, but you feel His presence, and you know everything is going to work out in the end. The same is true in medicine. You put your life in the hands of people. I never did have doubts."

This fall, Keeley will be a student at Boston College. Her major at this point is undecided, but she is interested in a pre-med curriculum and dreams of becoming a doctor some day, perhaps an ophthalmologist or a primary care physician.

"I want to have a family and have children. I want to have a private practice in a small town, where I know my patients. I want to live a simple life and impact people every day," she said.

Since she was 7, Keeley has been a patient at Shriners Hospital for Children in Philadelphia. She has contended with scoliosis - curvature of her spine - and heart issues, and has had surgeries and worn a back brace. Now Keeley said, "Healthwise, I am doing very well. I feel great!"

To thank the Shriners Hospital and its workers for the care they demonstrated to her and other patients that she witnessed, Keeler led a school fundraiser, and also donated her baby-sitting earnings, to support their work.

"I can't put into words how much those people mean to me... I want to be like them," said Keeley, expressing admiration for the medical professionals at that hospital.

Once when she was at that hospital waiting for a back brace, she saw a little boy who was missing an arm. A big man was making her brace, and the little boy "ran into his arms, hugged him and gave him high fives."

"It really is about perspective," she said, noting how she had witnessed children with far more serious medical conditions than her, smiling and having a positive outlook on life.

Keeley recalled one time she had surgery, and two days later she was doing history homework in her hospital room, and she said her recovery was aided by the prayers, love and support of her family and school community.

This past summer, she did an internship with a cardiologist in Cape May, N.J., doing clerical work at a diagnostics center, and shadowing the doctor as he met with patients, which again underscored for her the importance of a personal approach to medicine.

"I've had so many great doctors in my life... My doctors were so reassuring and comforting... They just care, period," she said, noting that also applies to the secretaries, nurses and other medical professionals she has met.

Entering Holy Child as a middle school student, Keeley said she was "hesitant and cautious when I came. But she said the teachers there pushed her to work hard and come out of her comfort zone, and by the eighth grade, she was taking high school math and French classes, and her courses there have included Advanced Placement statistics and calculus.

"They had more confidence in me than I had in myself," she said. During her junior year, she joined Holy Child students on a trip to France, and during her junior year, she and some classmates traveled to Italy together. "I've definitely come out of my shell," said Keeley. Her attitude now, she added, is, "I can try this. Maybe I can do this!... My confidence has skyrocketed over the years. The teachers and people here want you to succeed."

At Holy Child, she has also had the opportunity to learn outside the classroom, joining students every Friday in making sandwiches for the homeless. Keeley, who serves as vice president of the school's National Honor Society, helped organize a blood drive sponsored by the group, and she also participated in the school's recent Mother's Day carnation sale that benefited Georgetown University's Lombardi Cancer Center.

She has also enjoyed participated in Challenger Baseball, where she has volunteered with and become friends with a buddy, Zachary, who has autism.

Now Keeley is preparing to go off to college and, she said, "expand my horizons," bolstered by the lessons she has learned in the classroom, by volunteering, by witnessing the dedication and caring of medical professionals, and the grace of other patients. "I want to give back," she said.