Twin sisters Amanda and Emily Gale were both diagnosed with primary immunodeficiency diseases (PI) at the age of 15. But their diagnoses have not stopped these busy college students, now 20. Their determination and spirit has only grown stronger.
“When I was first diagnosed it was hard to understand because I felt healthy,” explains Amanda, “When I got sick in my junior year of high school, I realized how difficult my PI condition could be…it took time, but the more I faced my fears (needles, etc.) the more I accepted it. Once I began to independently infuse myself, needles and all, I took control of my future.”
Emily agrees with her sister and says that accepting her diagnosis was critical, “When I accepted my disease, I began understanding my own limitations and ultimately allowing myself to thrive.”
Before the twin’s sophomore year of high school, Emily underwent surgery for a congenital heart defect. She was soon diagnosed with Hypogammaglobulinemia, and during that same time Amanda was diagnosed with Common Variable Immune Deficiency (CVID). The girls feel that they were truly lucky to have each other during that difficult time.
“It helps a lot having each other because having someone that understands it completely makes it so much easier,” says Emily.
Their supportive parents, Ingrid and Ron, have taught them to take care of themselves. Ingrid explains, “As parents, Ron and I wanted to teach Amanda and Emily to manage their time well and take charge of their medical conditions. We are always there to help when necessary. Encourage them always, and listen to their thoughts and fears. There will be tough days. Don’t baby them or feel guilty. Live in reality.”
Currently Amanda and Emily are on treatment plans that help them stay healthy. In fact, they were championship pole vaulters at Calvary Christian Academy in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. For their accomplishments, the hardworking teens were featured in articles for Yahoo Sports! and the South Florida SunSentinel. Then the girls went on to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, maintaining 4.0 GPAs in biology and chemistry while competing in Division 1 track and field. Now they plan to finish their college education at the University of Miami, pursuing careers in medicine.
While juggling it all and staying healthy, the girls make time for another passion—baking. They make sweet creations, from cupcakes to cookies and more, for family, friends and fundraisers. Their work is showcased on their Instagram account: www.instagram.com/twinbakers.
Although life can be difficult and busy at times for the Gale twins, they do not let PI get in their way. Emily says, “The most important thing is to get a lot of rest and understand your body has limits. I am very honest with those who surround me about my disease … In order to perform well people needed to understand what I was going through in order to help me succeed.”
Their mom agrees with the girls’ approach to communicating about their conditions, “Because most people with PI…their disease isn’t obvious so others may not understand why at times they have low energy, need extra sleep, keep to a schedule etc., especially because they look ‘normal.’ They don’t wear their zebra stripes on the outside!”
Amanda’s advice for others living with PI is “never give up, sometimes things will be harder for you than other people. Know your body and what you can handle. Trust yourself and work hard because it will pay off.”
Below Emily (left) and Amanda (right) take on the pole vault.