Despite compromised immune system, local woman won't let anything stop her — even the pandemic

Alison Avery Wendy Ryan WFTS.png
Posted at 5:43 AM, Sep 21, 2021

Living through this pandemic has been challenging for everyone but for those who have a compromised immune system, the stress of possibly getting COVID-19 can be substantially higher.

That was true for 27-year-old Alison Avery.

Avery has a neuromuscular disease called Freidrich's Ataxia that weakens the muscles in her body over time. She was very worried about getting COVID-19 because it's very dangerous for her to get sick at all.

"Even if we got a delivery, we were wiping everything down, as so many people did. It was just really a scary time. I didn't really want to leave. And every time I'd leave the house, I'd count down the two weeks. Am I okay? Do I feel weird?" Avery explained.

Due to the anxiety and stress from this pandemic, she even experienced back pain and other symptoms.

"Waking up with headaches and every time I coughed or sneezed, I was like oh no, I have it and I was fine," she said.

Avery was vaccinated in April, a decision that did not come easy.

"I ultimately weighed out the pros and the cons and decided that getting the vaccine was better than me getting COVID," she explained.

Even though she continued to be careful, Avery still contracted COVID-19 in July becoming one of the breakthrough cases we've heard about.

"I just started feeling sick. I thought it was just an ear infection, and got tested and it was COVID," Avery said.

Avery believes she didn't have to be hospitalized because she'd was vaccinated which was a huge relief.

She was very fearful that she'd be going into the emergency room all by herself.

"Knowing that I'd have to go in there alone, without the help of my mom, my dad, anyone there. It's just scary," she admitted.

Throughout this pandemic, Avery took care of her mental health by getting outside with her new service dog, Vega.

"He'll help me open and close doors. He'll speak on command if I'm somewhere and need help," she explained.

But Avery admits it's challenging when strangers just assume she's been in a wheelchair her whole life because she used to play sports as a healthy child.

"I can still feel like I can play volleyball. Not that I was anything spectacular but it was fun to do," she said with a laugh.

It's been heartbreaking for Avery to watch her own body get weaker over time.

"I look at people and I'm like, 'Oh, I can't wait til I can do that.' But one day, it's gonna happen. And we're just waiting for that," she said, with tears in her eyes.

If she's having a bad day, Avery tries to focus on the good things in life.

"I've learned that you can't take anything for granted. You've got to be safe but you also can't just hide because that's not always great for your mental health," she explained.

That positivity helped her score a job with the NFL managing over 40 grant programs. All while pursuing an MBA at the University of Tampa in Business Administration.

"My dream would be to start my own non-profit," she said proudly.

And, she wants to live on her own with the help of Vega.

"The goal is to move out. Even though my parents say, 'Oh no, you don't have to leave ever!' But I'm going to," she said with a big smile.

That optimistic outlook has no limits.

So for any parent, whose child is newly diagnosed with Freidrich's Ataxia, Avery has this advice.

"I would say it's going to be okay, and your child is going to do everything they want to do. You just can't hold them back," she said with confidence.

Freidrich's Ataxia Research Alliance helps raise money to find a cure for FA. Their annual FARA Energy Ball, which will be part in-person and part virtual this year, will be on Saturday, September 25 at the Tampa Marriott Water Street at 6 p.m.

ABC Action News anchor Wendy Ryan will be emceeing the fundraiser and for more information, click here.