Southern Regional Graduate Kristin Maurer Ready for Next Phase in Life, With Hair

Aug 29, 2018
Photo by: Supplied photo For about eight years, Southern Regional graduate and former swimmer Kristin Maurer didn’t have hair. Now, as her blond locks continue to grow, she has set off for a career in meteorology at Millersville University.

As Kristin Maurer recently prepared to go off to college on Aug. 23, she was going to get her nails done when a salon worker complimented her.

“The lady said, ‘Oh, you’re so cute with your short hair,’ and I had to think about that for a second,” said Maurer, a recent Southern Regional High School graduate who began classes this week at Millersville University in Pennsylvania. “It was a bit weird, actually. It finally hit me. So many people don’t know the whole story.”

Part of that story can be summed up rather easily – for about eight years, she didn’t have any hair. But the bigger story is how she had gone through those years, never missed a beat and became a leader within her social and athletic circles.

The road without hair began in 2010, when alopecia universalis – an autoimmune condition in which an individual’s overactive immune system attacks the hair follicle cells throughout the body – set in and started wreaking havoc for the then-fourth grader at the McKinley Avenue Elementary School.

“The doctors weren’t sure if it was genetic or something brought on by other factors. There’s nothing conclusive about the condition,” she said. “But I had had a flu shot and I was stressed from my parents’ divorce, and that may have amped up my immune system. But not long after that, I was home and didn’t feel well. I took a shower and clumps of hair started coming out.”

Within a span of several days, Maurer became more ill and was having difficulty moving around. During the days that followed, all her hair had fallen out.

“My eyelashes, eyebrows, all the hair on my head, which was pretty long at the time ... it was all gone,” she said. “My mother took me to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and that’s when we found out what was wrong.”

According to researchers and written reports, diagnosing alopecia universalis is straightforward. Observing or understanding the pattern of hair loss – which is a very smooth, non-scarring, extensive hair loss – typically is all the confirmation needed. Sometimes, a doctor may order a scalp biopsy or blood work to confirm the condition and rule out others.

Nonetheless, Maurer was 10 years old and facing life without hair.

“I wasn’t really in shock over it, I don’t think,” she said. “To me, there were so many other things that could have been worse. But the first time I went back to school, I wore a wig. But I didn’t like it. I didn’t look natural, and it wasn’t comfortable. I wore it through sixth grade and then stopped.”

At that point, she was headed to Southern Regional Middle School and wasn’t at all concerned about the fact she had no hair.

“I didn’t really care if anybody knew,” she said. “I had a close group of friends who knew me and knew about my condition. It didn’t stop me from doing things or getting involved with stuff. If anything, it inspired me to be a better person to others, to learn to understand others and their problems. Having no hair actually helped me.”

Still, there were questions. Did she have cancer? Did Kristin have some other kind of potentially life-threatening disease? Those who wondered typically didn’t ask her directly, she said.

“A lot of people at school didn’t talk to me about it,” she said. “If they had questions, most of the time they asked one of my friends. But then again, I was oblivious to a lot of it because I didn’t worry about it. I didn’t have hair. I didn’t think much of it.”

Once in high school, Maurer joined the girls tennis and swim teams, STYLE and several other activities, and continued to develop as a leader amongst her peers. Eventually, for her senior season, she was one of the swim team’s captains.

“I learned a lot about myself in high school, and the person I wanted to be,” said the 18-year-old from Manahawkin. “Being a leader was important to me, and I always tried to see the things other people were going through and try to be a help to them in some way. One of my problems could be clearly seen, but a lot of problems for others aren’t seen so clearly. It was important to me to help and inspire others.”

At the heart of the swim season this past winter, Maurer was faced with a choice. Her doctors had given her the option to begin taking medication in attempt to slow down her overactive immune system and possibly grow her hair back.

“At first, I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it,” she said. “They were going to give me a medication which mostly treats rheumatoid arthritis, but it also suppresses the immune system. Some Yale studies suggested it worked for those with my condition, so I ultimately decided to give it a try. I had no expectations.”

She started taking the medication in December, just as the swim season started. By February, her eyelashes and eyebrows started growing. In March, she started seeing patches of hair on her head. In April, more strands of hair developed.

“It definitely was a bit strange,” Maurer said. “But the medication seems to work, and I’m getting used to having hair again. It’s growing nicely now.”

This summer, Maurer and close friend and swimming teammate Olivia Davis took on coaching roles for the Brant Beach Yacht Club swim team. Maurer’s blond hair – albeit very short – had covered most of her head by mid-July.

“I have other friends who knew me before I met Olivia in high school, so this was the first time Olivia has seen me with hair,” she said with a laugh. “I think she’s pretty fascinated with it. She didn’t know I was a blonde.”

As she begins her freshman year at Millersville, where she is studying meteorology and hopes someday to get in front of television cameras as a broadcast meteorologist, Maurer is excited to go into this next phase of her life with hair.

“Nobody at Millersville will know I didn’t have hair for so long,” she said. “I’ll meet all kinds of new people, and all they will know is I’m a girl with short, blond hair. It’s going to be cool.”

Of course, she expects to have a lot more hair by the time she makes it in front of the camera for her first broadcast.

“I’m definitely going to let it keep growing,” she said. “You know, everything happens for a reason. You just have to let your light shine through, do what you do best, and realize somebody else, somewhere, is worse off than you are. I’m thankful I only lost my hair for eight years. Now I can move on, with my hair.”

— David Biggy

biggy@thesandpaper.net

Throughout her time with the Southern Regional swim team, Kristin Maurer didn't have hair, due to the autoimmune condition Alopecia Universalis. (Photo by: David Biggy)
This summer, as her blond hair continued to grow back, Kristin Maurer teamed up with friend Olivia Davis to coach the Brant Beach Yacht Club swim team. (Photo by: David Biggy)
This summer, as her blond hair continued to grow back, Kristin Maurer teamed up with friend Olivia Davis to coach the Brant Beach Yacht Club swim team. (Photo by: David Biggy)
Last winter, Kristin Maurer was one of Southern Regional's captains for the girls swim team. (Photo by: Supplied photo)
Kristin Maurer hangs out with Brant Beach Yacht Club swimmer Nicole Small earlier this summer. (Photo by: Supplied photo)
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