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The 46th Chromosome This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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From the time we are young, we learn that what bonds humans is that we all have 46 chromosomes. However, this is not the case for me. I was born with Turner syndrome, a rare genetic abnormality where a female has only one complete X chromosome, as opposed to two.

I was seven years old when I really found out what Turner syndrome was. Before that I only knew that it was the reason I was short. Then one day I casually asked my mom. Her answer shocked and embarrassed me. Suddenly I felt like I was only half female. What if my other chromosome was supposed to be a Y and I’m really a boy? I thought.

Over the next few years, I learned more about Turner syndrome. My wide neck, broad shoulders, and curled-up fingernails were all manifestations. My parents explained that other symptoms could be learning disabilities in mathematics and difficulty with spatial tasks.

As I made my way through elementary and middle school, my parents and endocrinologist monitored my progress in math. To their surprise, I flourished. I asked myself why that was the case when so many girls with Turner syndrome struggled in math. The answer I came up with was two-fold.

First, I give credit to my parents. From the beginning, they told me not to let my condition stop me from achieving anything. They ingrained in me that I had no limitations and treated me exactly as they did my two older sisters.

Second – and perhaps more significantly – I give credit to simple genetics. Maybe I am one of the lucky girls with Turner syndrome who avoid the common spatial difficulties and are able to excel in mathematics. Consequently I have an intense curiosity about genetics and the way chromosomes make us who we are.

This interest in genetics prompted me to get involved in the Club Angel View. I volunteer at their House for Crippled Children, playing games and socializing with mentally and physically handicapped kids. The majority are in wheelchairs and have some degree of mental retardation, often because of a simple genetic mutation like mine. The more I worked there, the more I became fascinated with genetics and the impact a tiny molecule of DNA can have on an individual.

I also volunteered with the Rotary Interact Club in Mexicali, Mexico, working at a school for children with Down syndrome. Although those students might not have been able to understand the events of the day, it was apparent that they were cheerful and enjoyed our presence.

If a genetic mutation does not stop these children from being happy, then it certainly should not stop me. At that point, any remaining insecurities I had about Turner syndrome vanished. I was pleased to be making a difference in the lives of other children.

My experience with Turner syndrome has taught me to appreciate every day and count my blessings. Furthermore, lacking a forty-sixth chromosome has fostered my deep interest in the intricate concepts of heredity and genetics, topics that I hope to study more in depth in the future.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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This article has 6 comments. Post your own!

ColleenJ said...
Feb. 6, 2010 at 8:55 am:
Great job! I like your piece a lot! I also have Turner's Syndrome....feel free to check out my pieces I wrote on it, if you'd like.
Thank you!
 
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SaraB. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 26, 2009 at 10:17 pm:
Wow, that was really good and inspiring. I first learned about Turner syndrome in science class last year, but it just seemed like something out of a text book. You made it seem real. Great job. :)
 
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Marleigh's grandma said...
Jun. 13, 2009 at 7:55 pm:
Hi. I'm Marleigh's grandma and she was so moved by your article that she sent it to me. I have to ditto everything Marleigh said. You sound like an amazing young woman and I wish you all the luck in following your dreams. I have no doubt that you will always succeed in what you do. I am a social worker and I have seen many people give up, and I'm so glad to see that you aren't one of them.
 
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marleighxo6 said...
Jun. 13, 2009 at 12:21 pm:
Charlotte-
That was amazing! I'm going to show your piece to my Grandma later today, I think she would absolutely love it! She loves stories with happy ending like yours. Keep following your dreams!
 
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Ritamc said...
Apr. 9, 2009 at 8:22 pm:
Wow, it is so moving. =) I love it. Continue to Help the children, they need you!
 
Undiscovered replied...
Nov. 4, 2009 at 12:46 pm :
I loved it. It was so pure and straight forward. Keep it up!
 
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