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Boiling Springs High School senior Brianna Metzger never wavered from her answer to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“I told my mom when I was 3 that I wanted to be a cheerleader and I wanted to be a nurse,” Metzger said.

The cheerleading came first for the daughter of Brian and Heather Metzger. Not long after making her announcement, Metzger signed up for cheerleading, and has been cheering ever since. She was the senior captain of the varsity cheerleading team this year.

But, it’s the interest in nursing that has driven much of Metzger’s activity through high school despite a significant medical setback during her freshman year, one that she only mentions with some hesitation.

Metzger missed more than two months of the fall of her freshman year after being diagnosed with chronic migraines.

“For a few weeks, I couldn’t watch TV, couldn’t have the lights on in my house. Loud sounds bothered me. The doctors really couldn’t figure out why they started,” she said.

Tutors came to her house to keep her on schedule, and she returned to school for only a block a day at first while building up to half days on the way to full days, all the while wearing “big, goofy sunglasses” to prevent the fluorescent lights from triggering a migraine.

And she maintained honor roll status through it all.

“I didn’t want pity from people. I just wanted people to understand what I was going through, not to feel bad for me. … I didn’t want treated any differently than I had been before or that I would be after,” she said.

Looking back on that fall when she missed her first homecoming, her friends and her first fall season of cheerleading, Metzger knows it was a low point. Then she looks at all of the things she accomplished after those months and knows that it really didn’t keep her from doing what she loved.

“I started volunteering for firefighters as soon as I was allowed at 14. And then, as soon as I turned 16, I was going to take my EMT. I’ve just really been trying to get as much experience in the medical field and nursing that I can,” Metzger said.

She was the youngest in her class when she earned her EMT certification during her sophomore year, and was named the 2014 Junior Firefighter of the Year by the Cumberland County Volunteer Firefighters Association during her first year as a junior firefighter.

Participating in Geisinger Holy Spirit’s Health Care Exploration Program was a significant experience in Metzger’s road to nursing. The selective program allowed students to visit various departments at the hospital for an hour to 90 minutes each day.

“It wasn’t just the emergency room or the surgery floors. It was even behind the scenes,” she said. “It really showed the whole hospital experience, even the things you don’t get to see if you were just walking through a hospital.”

Trauma nursing came into focus during Metzger’s junior year when she volunteered in the emergency room at UPMC Pinnacle Carlisle. She did routine tasks like labeling biohazard bags or cleaning patient rooms, but was able to see a lot of what happens in the ER.

“The whole time I was in there I just had this feeling like I know this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. It just felt right,” she said.

Metzger hopes to take all of this experience to college at Bloomsburg University, and then on to working in the intensive care unit or emergency room at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville. After working for a few years, she plans to study for an advanced degree as a nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist or a similar higher level nursing degree.

That she was drawn to the medical field may not be a surprise since her mother is a nurse practitioner and her father is an EMT.

“I’ve always grown up around emergency services and health care. They never pushed me towards that, but I can never picture myself doing anything else because it’s kind of all I’ve ever known,” she said.

Email Tammie at tgitt@cumberlink.com. Follow her on Twitter @TammieGitt.

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Carlisle Reporter

Carlisle Reporter for The Sentinel.