Lives with: Hypereosinophilia
Referred by: Shepherd Center in Atlanta
Hometown: Greyson, GA
Sports Hero: Tim Tebow
It’s not uncommon for a football fan to find themselves watching a game and yelling coaching advice at his TV. However, how many fans can say they’ve emailed those “insightful suggestions” to a coach? Not many. Well, 20-year-old Mariel has done that on more than one occasion.
This Greyson, Georgia native (and loyal football fan) boldly set her heart and her sights on attending the University of Florida and becoming a Gator when everyone around her had sworn their allegiance to the Georgia Bulldogs. And while Jim McElwain, the former UF Football Coach never did respond to Mariel’s emails, she did see her idea of having the quarterback stay in the pocket longer incorporated in later Gator games.
Mariel’s friends and family describe her as a bold young woman with a fierce work ethic, determination, and sense of loyalty. So, it was no surprise when she was accepted to the school of her choice or that she excelled through her freshmen year of college.
During the fall semester of her sophomore year, Mariel became spontaneously ill inevitably resulting in her withdraw from school. She was diagnosed with a very rare blood disorder called Hypereosinophilia and many other health difficulties ensued. Her condition has worsened after having four strokes. Her vision and word-finding ability have been affected and she is now paralyzed from the waist down.
Mariel is being treated through blood infusions and chemo to fight an undiagnosed autoimmune process. Mariel also spends most of her days right now at Shepherd Center, where she works with therapists to adjust to her new normal. Mariel is a fighter; however, she doesn’t face her battles alone. Her mom, two younger brothers, Weston and Russell, as well as her father, stepmother, and stepfather, have been her support system and are always there to help. Another source of comfort and inspiration for Mariel has been former UF Quarterback, Tim Tebow. Mariel has always respected Tebow as both an athlete and a person for “always remaining true to his beliefs.”
Despite her recent challenges, Mariel still works as hard as she can to regain her independence, return to school, and get back into the outdoors. She also dreams of having a conversation with Tim Tebow. While she has been a Tim Tebow fan for as long as she can remember, she thinks that now she would have even more to talk about with the young man who was once called Timmy the Tumor and who has endured his share of life-altering setbacks.