There’s Alyssa, and there’s Audrey. Individually, they’re unique, but together, they’re complete.
WIU Junior Alyssa Hohman has Osteogenesis Imperfecta, and so does WIU Senior Audrey Tonkinson. Although they each have different types, their conditions take many similarities.
Osteogenesis Imperfecta – more commonly known as brittle bone disease – is a chronic condition that causes bones to break and fracture very easily.
“My freshman year I broke eight bones,” Hohman said, reflecting on high school. “My sophomore year I broke 12 bones. And then my junior and senior years I broke 20 bones each.”
Although the cause is unknown, researchers believe this rare disease is genetic which makes the fact that Audrey and Alyssa found each other that much more special.
“Nobody understands anything better than Alyssa,” Tonkinson said. “She literally goes through everything I’ve gone through like my hip is what she’s going through now and her wrist is what I’m going through now. We just take turns.”
The sorority Phi Sigma Sigma brought these two together, and ever since, they’ve been supporting each other in everything they do.
Before being diagnosed, both girls were very active with sports they can no longer participate in. Even when they’re not in a cast or brace the pain always lingers.
“I do not have a memory of a day where I don’t have pain,” Hohman said. “It has been something that I’ve dealt with since I was a little kid.”
“They see us as people who are always happy, people who are always smiling, and nothing ever bad happens to us, but yet we’re experiencing pain on a daily basis,” Tonkinson said. “It’s pain that they can’t even understand or begin to relate.”
Both say the hardest part is trying to help others understand what they’re experiencing, but luckily there is one person in their life who can always relate, and that’s each other.
“We like the same things,” Hohman said. “She jokes that we’re 90 percent the same and it’s really quite true. We have different tastes in music and guys, but that’s about it.”
Though their bones may continue to break, their friendship is unbreakable.
“I don’t know what I’d do without her,” Hohman said.