ATLANTA - Megan Barie loves the nightshift here in Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. It’s become her saving grace and her reason to keep going in the last couple of years.
"Because so many miracles happen in this unit,” Barie says. “And to be a part of it, at this early of an age, at 21 years old, is just awesome."
And Meghan will tell you her life is pretty awesome.
"I always joke that I haven't had a bad day since I got sick,” she says. “Because, when you get this sick, you find the good in every day. When you’re in the dark, it’s easier to see the light.”
Megan is the Cardiac ICU's tech and secretary, but with her hair gone and a port in her chest, she often gets mistaken for a patient.
"I have a chest tube. I have a port. And they're getting a port,” she says. “So I'm able to relate to kids and I'm able to ease parents' worries."
Because Megan has been that kid in the bed. At 18, while coming to volunteering at Children's, Megan got her arm caught in a car door, and needed four emergency surgeries.
"After that, I got sicker and sicker and sicker, and I kept passing out," she says.
After 10 months of tests, Barie, a competitive dancer, was diagnosed with advanced, systemic Lupus, a devastating autoimmune disorder
"Lupus attacks anything it wants to,” the Kennesaw State University student says. “And for me it's attacking my autonomic, or automatic, functions of my nervous system. So, digestion, heartrate control, breathing rate control, blood pressure. All of the things that people don't think about."
She had to take 8 months of medical leave early on, but staying away from work was really tough. So, Children’s allowed her to come back.
Megan gets targeted chemotherapy once a month, and she takes 9 medications a day to manage her symptoms.
She's tried more than a dozen therapies that might stop Lupus, but they haven't.
"I'm a 21-year old with a home health nurse, and I have a closet full of medical supplies," she says.
Which is why Megan feels this sense of mission.
"My pain is matched by taking away someone else's pain,” she says. “Whether it's physical, or emotional, whatever I can do in that moment. It's a blessing to get to be able to give back."
She dreams of becoming a nurse. And, after having to drop out of school because of her illness, she's back on track, making straight A's.
"I always say you have to live a life worth fighting for. And that applies to everybody. But when you have to physically fight for life,” she says.
That's when says you have to find the good.
"And the good is that I can find joy at a moment's notice. I can see the happy in every moment of the day. Like, if I find a good parking space at the hospital? Yes!” she laughs. “It's a good day!"
And when she can help a Cardiac ICU family through a hard night, or celebrate a miracle no one expected, Megan Barie says that is living.
"It keeps me looking up and thanking God for what he does give me,” she says.