Rare Illness Doesn't Slow This First-Year Law Student's Drive

Rare Illness Doesn’t Slow This First-Year Law Student’s Drive

Creighton law student Lexi Weisbeck has always charged ahead — at every opportunity, over every obstacle, onward, upward, smile on her face, joke at the ready.

Weisbeck’s go-go-go isn’t strictly figurative. She was a runner. Her track-and-field specialty was the 400- and 800-meter races — “the ones that everyone hates,” she says. Her speed won her a few state championships in high school, which scored her an athletic scholarship to South Dakota State University, where she studied construction management. Her post-college plan: take a job in Hawaii.

In all aspects of her life, Weisbeck couldn’t stop moving. Then she lost the ability to move at all.

It started in September 2018 with a head cold. No irregular symptoms at first. Then one morning Weisbeck couldn’t lift her book bag. She thought it was just a pinched nerve. Then her body really started to malfunction. She fell down the stairs. Twice. From there it got worse. Within a few days, she was in the hospital, unable to move anything but a few fingers and toes.

“It was kind of weird, obviously,” a deadpan Weisbeck says now.

She was soon diagnosed with acute flaccid myelitis, an extremely rare condition that inflames the gray matter in the spinal cord and short-circuits the brain’s messaging to the body. The muscles forget how to move.

Hospital bed-bound for months, Weisbeck took off what was supposed to be her final semester at South Dakota State University. Her mother, Necole Weisbeck, came to live with her — first in the hospital, then back at Lexi’s home in Brookings.

Day by day, step by step, Lexi built up her body again.

“It was like teaching a baby how to do everything again,” she says. “My lowest point was when it took me 45 minutes to put on my shirt.”

By January 2019, Weisbeck could get around in a wheelchair. She decided to go back to school to finish and graduate. By May commencement, she was able to walk with a walker across the stage. It was the first time her friends and family had seen her walk in nearly nine months.

Weisbeck has made more progress since. She can drive again, and shortly before moving to Omaha this fall she walked 50 feet without holding on to anything.

Her career plans altered, Weisbeck decided to pursue a degree in construction law. She was already considering Creighton, but it was her physical and occupational therapy sessions that convinced her: Five of her six therapists were Creighton-educated, and they all had nothing but good things to say about the University. That (and scholarship aid) sealed the deal; she started at Creighton in August.

Studying construction law is an extension of what Weisbeck has wanted to do since she was a little kid playing around the sites of her father’s general contracting company. And Creighton, in a lot of ways, was an ideal fit, says Weisbeck’s mother.

“As a parent, you like to see that your daughter’s school cares about her. I feel like I’m leaving Lexi with family.”