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SMC senior chronicles South Bend resident’s experience with AIDS

| Friday, May 15, 2015

Sister Linda Bellemore (left) introduced South Bend resident Sheila Muhammad (center) and SMC senior Morgan Carroll. Carroll recorded and transcribed Muhammad’s life story for Muhammad’s children. Courtesy of Gwen O'Brien

Sister Linda Bellemore (left) introduced South Bend resident Sheila Muhammad (center) and SMC senior Morgan Carroll. Carroll recorded and transcribed Muhammad’s life story for Muhammad’s children.

Graduating senior Morgan Carroll will remember Saint Mary’s for her education and experiences, but most especially her connection with South Bend resident Sheila Muhammad.

The interaction between Carroll and Muhammad started because of Muhammad’s desire to leave a written legacy for her family about her challenges and triumphs since she was first diagnosed with AIDS 25 years ago, according to a press release from the College.

Muhammad expressed her wish to share her life’s story, her longtime friend Holy Cross Sister Linda Bellemore said. Bellemore then reached out to the College and assistant professor of communication studies Marne Austin, who taught a class about chronicling oral histories.

When Austin told the class there was an opportunity for someone to document Muhammad’s story, Carroll and Faye Kennedy of Stillwater, Minnesota, who graduated in 2014 with a degree in business administration, volunteered.

Muhammad lost her sight in 1995 due to CMV, or cytomegalovirus, which she may have contracted because of her compromised immune system. Muhammad said in the press release she wanted to leave a legacy for her three children and six grandchildren, as well as other people battling AIDS.

“I wanted to leave something for my kids about my life and help others who have the virus and are dealing with the struggles I went through,” Muhammad said.

Muhammad said a positive attitude keeps her going each day.

“I try to keep positive. I put one foot in front of the other. My motto: ‘Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.’ I try everything. I am a fighter,” Muhammad said in the press release. “I’ve been employed by Sodexo at Holy Cross College for 12 years — I wash dishes. I try to be as normal as I can be. Losing my sight does not mean I lose my ability to work.”

Carroll felt the desire to talk with Muhammad because of her own personal experience with vision problems. According to a college press release, Carroll was born with a condition that could have left her blind, if not for surgeries at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.

“This experience has put my personal situation into perspective and helped me appreciate the vision I have been blessed with. Sheila is truly a role model in the way she lives her life despite the many challenges she faces,” Carroll said in a college press release. “I deeply appreciate all that she has [taught] me.”

According to the press release, the project of chronicling Muhammad’s story left an impact on Carroll.

“Each time I left Sheila’s house, I got a deeper understanding of how amazing she is. Her inspiring attitude and outlook lifted my spirits. She is one of the biggest inspirations in my time at Saint Mary’s,” Carroll said.

Bellemore remembers the moment when Carroll and Kennedy presented Muhammad with the finished product, according to a College press release.

“Witnessing Sheila’s excitement that her greatest wish for her anticipated short life was fulfilled, and hearing her expressed gratitude for a task that she had been unable to accomplish herself, confirmed for me that the mission of Saint Mary’s College is alive and impacting our world,” Bellemore said in the press release. “Indeed, these women were prepared to make a difference in the world and they already are.”

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