THE PURSUIT OF LIVING
Fighting is what Louisiana resident, Martha Robertson Mitchell does every day. The 38-year-old fighter, currently undefeated, faced her toughest opponent in 2013. After two weeks in Acoma, Martha opened her eyes and was surrounded by tubes from the ventilator, a tracheal tube lodged in her throat and her hands restrained to a hospital bed.
At age 34, Martha was diagnosed with Pneumonia in the lungs and kidney failure. Her lungs collapsed and she could no longer breathe on her own. While in the Intensive Care Unit, Martha said that she saw people coming into the hospital, but was not leaving alive. She said that as she thought of her husband and her children, she knew she had to fight to get well. “I had to endure dialysis and learn to walk again.” said Martha. “It was hard but I was determined to do it.”
Martha’s condition meant that she would have to report to the hospital for dialysis daily. “I cried every time I went to the clinic because I was the only young person there.” said Martha. Martha said she wanted to continue to teach and maintain her independence. Therefore, she pursed a way to receive treatment and yet be made at home so that she could take care of her family and continue to teach.
“I’m inspired by her self-motivation and ability to manage marriage, family, home, business, health challenges and still keep pursuing life,” said Evelyn Mitchell, Martha’s sister-in-law.
In Martha’s early childhood, fighting became a part of her life. She was born in Chicago. She was the baby of four siblings and has an identical twin sister who is 10 minutes older than Martha. “It was fun growing up with Martha.” said Amy Robertson, her twin sister. “We shared everything.”
Martha’s mom was a native of Louisiana and decided to move the family to Kentwood for a better living environment. Martha said that she and her sister saw how hard their mom worked as a single parent and wanted make things easier for her to help them further their education. “My mom was a single parent and times were hard,” said Martha. “We wanted to go college. So my twin sister, Amy and I made a pact that we would study hard and graduate at the top of our class and received scholarships to go to Southern University.”
At Southern University, Martha majored in education. “I wanted to teach but I didn’t feel that there was much money to be made,” said Martha. “So I pursued computer science.” After exploring various career options Martha said that she went back into the education field and graduated.
While in college Martha was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. “It was a challenge,” said Martha. “ButI didn’t let it stop my life. I managed it.” Martha graduated from Southern University and was offered a teaching position at a school in Kentwood, Louisiana. Martha said that she had not always been sure that teaching was her purpose but it just felt like it was what she was supposed to be doing. Martha has been an educator for 17 years. She taught at Kentwood High School for 10 years, Independence High for five years and Whitmore for two years.
Devin Baker, a former high school student of Martha’s, said that she was his best teacher. “She was always helpful and patient,” said Devin. “She took time to break down the material so that I could understand it.” Martha nominated Devin to participate in a six month Beautillion workshop for young men who were outstanding in their community. Devin said when Martha selected him to participate in the Beautillion Project, she made him feel special to be chosen and that he was doing something right.
Martha is also an entrepreneur. The name of her business is TwinzBiz. She creates and sales t-shirts, banners, programs, and provide tutoring services. “I am motivated by her creativity and passion about everything she does,” said Evelyn. Martha also does photography and crafts.
Amy, Martha’s twin sister said that Martha’s strength is what inspires her. “She could have given up a long time ago. She could easily use her health condition as a valid excuse to become inactive but she doesn’t,” said Amy.
Martha is currently on the waiting list for a kidney and pancreas transplant. Her identical twin sister is a match for the kidney, but she is waiting for a match for the pancreas transplant so that only one major surgery would be done. In the meantime, Martha says she will continue to teach and live her life to the fullest. “It’s a big challenge every day, but through my faith and the support of family, I will continue to fight for my life,” said Martha.
Martha said that she has learned valuable lessons during this season of her life: Prioritize what’s important, take personal responsibility for your own actions, don’t take time with family for granted, take care of yourself and live each day like it’s your last.