Student aims to raise awareness for disease


Sarah Henry/Iowa State Daily

Freshman Collin Hillinger on Central Campus. 

Tiana Nichelson

Collin Hillinger wants to raise awareness for Osteogenesis Imperfecta, also known as brittle bone disease.

Brittle bone disease has affected Hillinger for his entire life. It is a genetic disorder which causes bones to break easily, sometimes with little or no cause. This is due to poor quality or lack of type I collagen.

He was diagnosed with the disease before he was even one year old. At three months, Hillinger’s mom tried to adjust the blanket she was holding him in and accidentally broke one of his legs. Over the next nine months, he broke two more bones and the doctors concluded that he is affected by brittle bone disease.

Hillinger is from Sioux City, Iowa. He attended Lawton-Bronson High School and credits the small town atmosphere for helping him feel comfortable and safe being himself.

He has two older brothers and a younger sister who, along with Hillinger’s parents, do all they can to help make things easier for him. 

“I’m kind of the favorite of the family,” Hillinger said.

In second grade, he remembers walking and running. The summer after, he slipped and broke a femur, putting him in a wheelchair almost indefinitely. He occasionally uses a walker now.

He has fractured bones throughout his whole life. 

“My parents lost track in elementary at 60-something fractured bones,” Hillinger said.

He has dealt with accessibility problems throughout his life as well. As he ages he has experienced more places adapting to wheelchairs, but still sees it as an issue. 

“They have really skinny doorways or like doorways that have like a step or two or three or that sort of thing,” Hillinger said. 

He doesn’t see these problems on campus, however, he has run into a few issues in Ames, naming no place in particular. 

Hillinger is currently a freshman in pre-architecture, and says his interest was peaked by his father’s work with design. He has always been curious about why buildings are structured the way they are. While handicap accessibility was not a part of his decision to study architecture, it is something which he will always consider throughout his career.  

He consistently works toward informing other people about his disability. Hillinger emails his professors at the beginning of each semester, so they have a better understanding of him. He also welcomes other students to ask him questions. 

Hillinger has collaborated with the ISU Student Disability Resources Office in order to reach his goal of raising awareness for Osteogenesis Imperfecta. He wants people to know there are students like him on campus, and people like him in the world.