Brotherly Love This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   When I was younger, I looked upon my brother as being an embarrassment. I never wanted other people to know that he was different. Of course, my close friends knew, but telling new people was always difficult. When I told people I couldn't go out because I had to baby-sit my brother, the question always was, "How old is he?" My answer was always a hesitant, "A year younger than me." This response was met with puzzled looks.

Andy was born with multiple handicaps. Something went wrong during the early stages of my mother's pregnancy to cause him to be born with both severe brain damage and a hole that engulfed the majority of his heart. He was not expected to live after infancy. He spent his early years in and out of the hospital. I lived with my grandparents because my parents were always with him.

Andy held on. After many surgeries and close calls, he lived beyond what was expected. During his early childhood, it was predicted that he would live, but not a productive life. The doctors said that he would not be able to function correctly and that he would never be able to speak. However, Andy again proved the doctors wrong. With the help of therapists, Andy was able to use his body as well as any young child. Eventually he was able to speak also; in fact, he speaks so well that it is impossible to shut him up. There is never a quiet moment when Andy is around.

Unfortunately it wasn't until I was in junior high that I could appreciate him. Since we are so close in age, I was too young to appreciate his accomplishments, I did not realize how lucky my family was since so many other cases have ended in death.

Later on, the doctors told us that although Andy had made great accomplishments physically, his brain damage was so severe that he would always be dependent on my parents. According to the specialists he would always have the mentality of a four-year-old.

This seemed to be true until Andy was about 11 or 12. Then Andy went through a great change; suddenly he lost interest in everything from activities to eating. Eventually specialists determined that he was severely depressed. For a while everyone was clueless as to what should be done. All we knew was that something had to be done quickly because Andy was slowly dying.

A solution was finally found in facilitated communication. It turned out that although Andy was able to communicate, he was not communicating correctly. Andy has nerve damage that prevents him from being able to say what he actually wants to say. For instance, if someone were to ask him if he wanted to buy a green shirt or a blue shirt, he may say green but be thinking blue.

Facilitated communication allows Andy to communicate what it is that he really wants to say through typing. It turns out that Andy is in fact a genius. Once again he proved the doctors wrong. The theory that he had the mentality of a four-year-old quickly changed when it was discovered that Andy could speak many languages and perform complicated math problems.

Through facilitated communication, Andy found a way to express himself, and I believe it saved his life. No longer do I see Andy as someone to be ashamed of. I now realize how very lucky I am to have such a special brother.


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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