RED Hearts: Tiffani, 20, Helps Others (Like Her) With Chronic Illnesses

RED Hearts are guests posts on I Heart Daily from the authors of RED: Teenage Girls in America Write On What Fires Up Their Lives Today Today's RED Hearts post is from New York-based Cindy Morand, 21, interviewing fellow RED author Tiffani Hortman, 20, in Georgia:

Published author and activist Tiffani Hortman (shown) was diagnosed with a rare form of muscular dystrophy as a child -- and has been helping her peers cope with chronic illness ever since. On October 9, she will participate in the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s Walk of Hope-Macon at Lake Tobesofkee (what a great name!), Georgia. Join her team to provide help and hope to families living with neuromuscular disease and fund new research for a cure. Cindy Morand, 21, talked to this natural leader.

Cindy Morand: What motivates you -- personally, and to help others?

Tiffani Hortman: Life in general. I was diagnosed with dermatomyositis at age five, so I don’t really know any different. It’s a very rare autoimmune neuromuscular disorder -- I think there are only five of us in the whole state of Georgia with it -- that prevents me from being able to build any kind of muscle. I never really ever felt sorry for myself. I just love helping other people; it’s how my parents raised me.

CM: Tell me about your upcoming fundraiser.

TH: The potential impact of this MDA fundraiser is saving people’s lives. One aspect of this that really speaks to me is sending someone to camp for a summer. Camp was the best thing that ever happened to me. This summer I worked at one I’d attended for 13 years as a camper. It’s for children with all kinds of illnesses, from MD to cancer. I’m also teaching kids with chronic illnesses how to ride horses.

CM: What can other people our age do to help?

TM: Donate! Just $30 buys a life-saving flu shot, and we’re working toward those $800 camp scholarships. Any teen can look for this kind of camp or center. Or, more simply, if you see someone in a wheelchair having trouble, ask if you can help.

CM: How does MD affect you, and what should others to know about it?

TM: I tend to get tired faster than others. I also tend to get from people that I don’t “look sick,” like I had a police officer on campus try to write me a ticket because I didn’t look like I needed my handicap tag. Most times people can’t really tell I have anything wrong with me.

CM: I suppose that can be both good and bad?

TM: I sometimes wish adults would be more like four-year-olds: Four-year-olds don’t have an issue with asking, “Why do you walk that way?” or “Why are you in a scooter or wheelchair?” I don’t have an issue explaining what’s wrong. You don’t have to take a lot of time to help someone. Sometimes it’s the little things that matter, like asking another human being to tell you their story.

RED Hearts guest posters Cindy Morand and Tiffani Hortman are authors of RED: Teenage girls in America write on what fires up their lives today, which is available in paperback.