Doctors said Courtney Mangin would be lucky to live past her first birthday. She’s now 25 and a registered nurse.

Countless surgeries. Immeasurable courage.
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Courtney Mangin, RN, BSN

Courtney Mangin, RN, BSN

Isn’t it great when doctors are wrong? Well, not always of course, but in this case it’s turned into a pretty miraculous story of strength and perseverance.

Diagnosed with multiple birth defects, Courtney Mangin was given 12 months to live. If she lived past a year, doctors told her mother she’d likely be in a vegetative state. From the day she was born, Courtney faced what everyone thought to be insurmountable odds. But somebody forgot to tell her that.

If you’re looking for inspiration and undeniable evidence of the power of the human spirit, look no further.

Courtney lived beyond her first birthday. In fact, she’s had 24 more since then. And, as if each passing year wasn’t reason enough to celebrate, she has recently reached another milestone. Courtney graduated from Chamberlain University College of Nursing in Missouri last year and is now working in the same operating room where she was once a patient!

“I’ve been a patient more than times I can count. I understand what it's like to be in the hospital, waiting for results, frustrated with your medical issues, and overcoming odds. Since being in nursing school, I've had to take off four times to have surgery. I keep telling myself that in order to heal others, I must heal myself."

"It's been a long and bumpy road but I did it!”

"It's been a long and bumpy road but I did it!”

Of course, her path from such dire beginnings to becoming a flourishing and extraordinary adult wasn’t easy. But through great difficulties comes great strength, and it’s hard to imagine a more difficult journey or a stronger person. Courtney has endured 71 surgeries — yes that's correct, SEVENTY-ONE. Her colostomy surgery was for short gut (a lack of a functional small bowel) and was performed when she was just two days old. Doctors also diagnosed her with cloacal exstrophy, scoliosis, clubfoot, spina bifida, and pyruvate kinase deficiency. Any of these diagnoses could be enough to disrupt the optimism and dreams of an average person. But not Courtney, she has withstood every challenge and has no plans to stop lending her strength to others.

The next goal on Courtney’s list is to become a pediatric Wound, Ostomy, Continence Nurse (WOCN). Who could be better? Her amazing journey would transform into compassion, empathy, and comfort for every child she works with. Courtney's unique and personal perspective would provide endless inspiration to not only her patients but also their parents. If ever discouraged, they can look to her and know that their child too can achieve more than anyone thought possible.

“I would LOVE to work at St. Louis Children's Hospital or Shriners Hospitals for Children. I've had 50 surgeries alone at St. Louis Children's and about 12 at Shriners. I want to work at these hospitals to give back to the community of doctors and nurses who took great care of me.”

"Dr. Coplen is a miracle worker. He saved my life and I wouldn't be here today without him."

"Dr. Coplen is a miracle worker. He saved my life and I wouldn't be here today without him."

On top of caring for others, Courtney has volunteered with the United Ostomy Associations of America for more than ten years. There she works with ostomy nurses to help educate other medical professionals about ostomy care basics. She also takes special pride in using this platform to break stereotypes and let people know that ostomates have all different age groups.

Youth Rally is also extremely important to her, a summer camp for kids with bowel and bladder conditions where they learn confidence, self-esteem, and independent living. And while these are invaluable, Courtney believes the most powerful thing she's taken away from her time as a camper (now counselor) is their motto, “You are not alone.” An incredibly vital and encouraging message for kids and teens dealing with what can feel like very lonely conditions.

Courtney has a favorite saying she learned in nursing school: “I didn’t choose nursing, nursing chose me." Some people might not believe in destiny, but it seems pretty clear that whoever decides these things got it right. She put another one of her favorite sayings on her nursing school graduation cap, and it’s something she’s been doing her whole life. "I just kept swimming.” Even when the current was against her from the very beginning, she never stopped pushing forward.

She believed she could, so she did.

She believed she could, so she did.

Doctors are awesome and do amazing things. They have their charts and graphs and thick medical journals to tell them everything there is to know about a condition. But there’s nothing in them about the unbound resiliency of the human spirit. So, if you’re reading this and facing a struggle or daunting diagnosis, just keep on swimming. At least that’s how Courtney Mangin, RN, BSN did it.