A photo of podcast guest Rasheera Dopson, who discusses living with VATER and Goldenhar syndromes from being born premature

Rasheera Dopson, host of the Womanhood & Disability podcast, is an accomplished author, public speaker and advocate spreading her messages of justice, disability empowerment and awareness. She came by this work through her own experience living with two rare syndromes, both caused by her being born about 5 months premature. It took over 100 surgeries to fill in the gaps where Rasheera’s body was underdeveloped at birth.

Rasheera’s rare conditions are both visible and invisible. Her visible diagnosis is a craniofacial condition called Goldenhar, which involves the right side of her face being underdeveloped. She was born without a right jaw bone, and has had around 30 reconstructive surgeries on her jaw alone. The invisible condition is called VATER syndrome, which is a group of growth abnormalities affecting a fetus in early development. VATER is an acronym for the body parts that can be affected by this condition, vertebrae, anus, trachea, esophagus and renal (kidney). The heart and limbs can also be affected.

In this episode of the Major Pain podcast, Rasheera talks us through her journey from patient to activist. She discusses the unique challenges faced at different periods in her life, first enduring countless surgeries as a child and teenager, and then finding her place in the world as a young adult. She teaches us about her rare diseases, and discusses the road that led to her activism and advocacy work.

Connect with Rasheera on Instagram @RasheeraDopson

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