Battling lupus: Browne well on the way to becoming a lawyer
Dionna Browne is a small woman with a big voice, a huge health challenge and a strong will.
The 32-year-old Browne was a healthy, active, energetic athlete before she was struck by the chronic autoimmune disease lupus that changed her life but failed to destroy her dream.
in a few weeks, Browne will head to Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad, the next step towards fulfilling that dream.
Life was normal for Browne, who had graduated from Foundation Secondary School as the best all-round student, having excelled in both academics and athletics.
She went on to study political science at the Barbados Community College (BCC) and, while there in 2001, she was diagnosed with lupus.
She seemed fine at first, but it was not long before Browne began to feel the effects.
“Initially I guess was okay, but then the trial started to tell on my body physically. I was losing weight. They [effects] may not have been very significant in the very early stages [but] I was seeing them,” she said.
Not to be deterred, Browne completed the BCC course and applied to the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill campus to pursue a degree in law, which she had discovered as her calling after she was forced to give up athletics. To her disappointment, her application was unsuccessful.
“I would have applied for law at that point in time and I didn’t get in. I knew my grades had suffered a little bit because of having lupus in the middle of BCC and it was difficult at that stage to get into law,” she told Barbados TODAY.
So she put her dream on pause, studied English and political science and, after she graduated from UWI, began a career as a primary school teacher. She even undertook further education at Erdiston Teachers Training College, where she again excelled against the odds.
However, Browne could not ignore the magnetic pull towards law. So she applied again, and this time she was accepted. “When I got in, my doctor calls it my sweet spot. So I guess I found my sweet spot. And it is law. I always said any job that I do has to allow me to talk. I guess that is where the love started,” she explained.
The journey was relatively smooth in that she was never hospitalized during the entire course of study. Still, this did not mean it was easy. She had to resit one examination that she missed due to illness – she got an A – and the toughest test came this summer. With one examination left and a final paper to be completed, Browne was forced to undergo hip surgery just two days before the examination.
Yet the warrior in her would not give up, and, with the help of the physiotherapist, she managed to write the exam.
“I was bent on getting the total highest grade. I finished on the dean’s list. There were five Bajans on that list and I was one of them. Felt really good,” she said proudly.
“This last phase when I had surgery I had one final exam to sit and one final assignment to hand in. Two days after surgery I did an exam.
“At one point I told myself, ‘Dionna, you are going to have to do law school next year. It’s not going to work. You just had surgery, you can’t walk after a hip replacement surgery, there is just no moving around, no going to the bathroom any of that’. . . . I wanted to get into law school so the day after the surgery the physiotherapist came in, she said, ‘come girly you have to stand today,’ and I couldn’t imagine standing up. But she told me she would help me and she talked me through it and literally the day after the surgery I was taking baby steps, gliding my feet on the floor taking baby steps,” Browne explained.
Those steps took Browne to her first destination and she will graduate in October. Following this, she will take a much bigger stride to Hugh Wooding Law School on the journey to a dream she is determined to make come true.
“In the early stages I didn’t cope with my disease very well. I guess it hindered me. I’m at a stage where I have my hands around it better now. The journey has been long and roundabout but I got there. And the fact that I got there at the top means a lot,” she said.