By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — She’s back on the dance floor and hitting the books, not allowing a serious brain condition slow her down.
Josie Lydick is determined to succeed only months after having brain surgery, and has been named the state’s Distinguished Young Woman for 2014.
The Distinguished Young Woman of New Hampshire program promotes and rewards students who excel academically and in areas in and out of the classroom.
For Josie, the award is a testament to her endurance and drive to succeed.
The 17-year-old senior battled debilitating headaches and seizures from the time she was in eighth grade. For years, doctors tried to find the cause of her illness, but symptoms lingered on.
Her mother, Glenna Lydick, said her daughter forged on through the pain, trying to keep up with her busy schedule, but also not being able to do everything she wanted to, including learning how to drive.
“But nothing was going to keep her down,” Lydick said.
After years of hospitalizations and working to keep up with schoolwork and her numerous dance classes at NH Academie of Dance, doctors at Elliot Hospital finally found the cause of Josie’s problems — Chiari malformation, a rare disorder causing brain fluid to be disrupted.
“We were happy to know what it was,” Josie said. “And mortified to know what it was.”
But finally she knew its name.
“This explained so many of her symptoms,” Lydick said. “She was probably born with it.”
Surgery took place last November. After only a few days in the hospital, Josie was released and ready to get back to her life.
“She came back with a vengeance,” her mother said.
That included improving her SAT scores by 200 points and preparing a dance number for her talent application for the Distinguished Young Woman program.
She said her medical team gave her the OK to do the 90-second dance routine as part of her application process.
Everything her daughter does is an inspiration, Lydick said. Josie is strong, driven, and always trying to do good somewhere in her life. Her daughter will attend Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y., and hopes to study medicine to help others.
“Her goal is to be an adolescent psychologist,” she said.
Pinkerton Academy teachers are inspired by Josie’s success.
Anne Hanlon had the teen in chemistry classes and said her success is truly amazing.
“She was back only three weeks after brain surgery,” Hanlon said. “She’s a very bright girl. With everything that was going on, missing classes, she never used it as an excuse. She always had her work done.”
Science teacher John Breda said Josie has excelled at Pinkerton as part of the Honor Society, Student Council and as a member of the school’s senior elite dance company.
“She’s one of those students always willing to volunteer her free time,” Breda said. “Her heart is in the right place and she generally wants to make a difference.”
Josie credits the Elliot Hospital team for helping her heal when many other specialists at top New England hospitals could not.
“All the power to New Hampshire,” she said.
As the state’s Distinguished Young Woman for 2014, Josie won more than $2,000 in scholarship money and the opportunity to travel to Alabama in June for the national competition.