19-year-old culinary student and aspiring chef Alyssa had only been in school at Johnson & Wales University for three weeks last September when she suffered an unexpected and terrifying scare.
"About three weeks [after starting school], my life changed," Alyssa recalls. "I was in class. I knew something wasn't right, but I didn't know what exactly."
"I was dizzy," she continues. "I couldn't really see straight and I passed out."
"Alyssa had not even been at school for a month, and I got the worst phone call that any parent will ever receive, [saying], 'Your child's in the hospital, and you need to come up,'" Alyssa's mom, Mara, remembers. "And we [were] five hours away."
When Alyssa woke up in the hospital, she couldn't see or speak very well, she remembers. She and her family were told that a blood clot had formed in her heart, traveled to her brain and broke up in both hemispheres of her brain.
"She had multiple strokes," Mara says, "and that triggered multiple seizures."
"It was scary, because I was thinking things," Alyssa explains, "but I couldn't repeat it to other people."
When the doctors sat Alyssa down with her parents, they explained that they thought it was best for her to go on medical leave from school and take as long as she needed to recover.
"They felt pretty good that she'd have a full recovery," Mara says. "and she's actually just about there."
Amazing! Now, Alyssa's goal is to go back to school and become a chef.
"Knowing that Emeril went to Johnson & Wales University makes me excited for what great things are to come," she continues.
SO, we couldn't invite Alyssa to our show without inviting one of her inspirations, right? Enter Emeril! (BAM.)
And that wasn't the only surprise we had in store for her. Not only did she get to cook a Tri-Tip Steak With Bearnaise Sauce with Emeril, but Rach surprised Alyssa, too — and her reaction was so sweet.
"On behalf of our Yum-o! organization, and with the help of our partners at the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, we are going to give you $20,000 for culinary school," Rach told her. "To get you going again!"
Watch it all go down in the video above. (Spoiler alert: there are tears!)
Go get 'em, Alyssa! ❤️