At the age of 18, Charlsie Doan has done more than most. The Hockaday alumna became a patient of Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children at 6 months. Born with symbrachydactyly, a congenital hand disorder, Doan is missing fingers on her right hand. She was treated in the hospital’s prosthetics department. She and her family became involved at Scottish Rite’s KidSwing Golf Tournament in 2003. Her father is a golf professional. As a member of the KidSwing Junior Committee, Doan has raised more than $250,000 for the hospital. In 2013, she spoke to the Crystal Charity Ball committee to raise money for the prosthetics program. She played violin at the event to demonstrate how a prosthetic enabled her to pursue her passion for music. In addition, she served as a delegate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Children’s Congress. Order the Charlsie Burger at any Village Burger Bar location through Aug. 31, and the restaurant will donate $1 for every burger sold to Scottish Rite. Doan plans to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Where did you get your name?
My great-grandmother was named Charlsie. She was supposed to be a boy named Charles. My parents told her that if they had a daughter they’d name her Charlsie. She said, “Why would you do that?” She hated her name because nobody could pronounce it. That’s a problem I still have, but I like my name.
What inspired you to go to UNC?
I applied to a lot of schools because I didn’t really know what I wanted. Everything was pretty East Coast. I got into Duke. It was really between the University of Virginia and the University North Carolina. My mom said, “Just go back to UNC and see.” It immediately felt right. I really liked it. It felt like a change from Hockaday, which was small and private.
What’s your major going to be?
UNC has a program called “Peace, War, and Defense” studies. I want to major in that and minor in music.
What do you want to do in the future?
I want to go to law school.
“With my hand, I’m like, ‘It’s cool. It’s all good.’ It would be nice to have another hand sometimes, but I don’t really think about it.”
What’s it like to raise money?
We have some very generous friends, so we’re lucky in that sense. But I mostly wrote letters. I say the same thing every year. I tell my story, saying why it’s so important to donate to Scottish Rite. I describe what KidSwing helped build in the past. I like to give people tours. Once you see the hospital, it’s such a cool place. It’s so inviting and colorful. It’s not like a hospital. It smells like popcorn.
When you tell your story, what do you say?
Scottish Rite is an accepting place that is for everyone. I like to talk about Dr. Karl Rathjen. At the Crystal Charity Ball presentation, he said when a parent brings a baby in for the first time, whether he’s got a club foot or some other deformity, the first thing he says is, “Oh, what a beautiful baby.” The parents haven’t heard that yet. All they’ve heard is, “What’s wrong?” No matter what your condition is, the staff embraces all of you.
How is your health?
I’ve had a lot of other issues not related to my hand. I have Type 1 diabetes. I also had anorexia. With Type 1, I have to take insulin. I need to be hyper-focused on food. I was always a tall girl. At 5 feet 7 inches, I was bigger than everyone else. When I hit puberty, I felt massive. I was diagnosed with Type 1 when I was 11. It was the perfect storm. I lost 40 pounds and gained it back. I spent a couple months at the intensive outpatient program at the Eating Recovery Center at Baylor Scott & White when I was a sophomore. I still counted calories though, and then I developed a problem with binge eating, which goes hand in hand with anorexia. I weigh more now than I ever have.
What advice do you have for other young women?
You can’t let your self-worth be dependent on something that’s fleeting, such as college acceptances, weight or the size of clothes you wear, because you’re always changing. There isn’t anything that can happen that can make you a less-worthy person and less deserving of love, acceptance and friendship. You have to look inward. There’s always going to be someone who is thinner, prettier, smarter and gets into a better school. You can’t rely on those things to feel good about yourself.
How do your parents feel about you going to UNC?
They’re super excited. They just want me to be happy. I love Texas, but I always tell them, “If I don’t leave now, I never will and then I’ll feel stuck here, and I’ll regret it.” I want to see what else is out there.
Tell me about your burger.
It’s everything I like on a burger — caramelized onions, American cheese, bacon, tomatoes, garlic aioli and lettuce.
I feel uncomfortable asking this, but how is life without your hand?
I don’t notice anything. I can tie my shoes. I don’t want to speak for people who have had a traumatic amputation, but since mine was congenital, I’ve never known anything different. With my hand, I’m like, “It’s cool. It’s all good.” It would be nice to have another hand sometimes, but I don’t really think about it. There have only been a couple of things that have been difficult. For example, I did gymnastics when I was younger and I could never climb a rope. But most of the things that I really want to do, I can do. I’m good at rock climbing. I’m strong. I do ballet. I play the violin. Little kids are weird about it. They stare. It’s almost easier to tell them that my hand was cut off, because they don’t really understand the idea that I was born this way. My diabetes has been a far greater challenge. It has an extremely high comorbidity rate with eating disorders, depression and anxiety, because it’s so stressful to manage. It’s an hour-by-hour management type of thing. Your blood sugar fluctuates in minutes. You have to be conscious about what you eat and when you eat. You either take four shots a day, or you wear multiple things constantly on your body that are poking into you. When I buy underwear, I have to make sure that it’ll hold up my pump when I’m not wearing shorts. When I’m in a dress, I have to have somewhere to put my pump. It was super awkward to find a prom dress that had a spot for my pump. You don’t want there to be this weird bump in the dress. My mom keeps saying they’ll find a cure before the end of my lifetime.
What’s your favorite food?
Chocolate chip pancakes.
How can neighbors help your cause?
Take a tour of Scottish Rite if you haven’t. It’s free. Or just go walk around, even in the atrium. Get some popcorn and see what Scottish Rite is all about. Take your kids to the park. Volunteer. Go buy my burger.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
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