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The Incredible Bowel Warrior

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When I was younger, I never thought of my brother as a hero. In my mind, a hero was someone who saved the world or had a cape and flew around. As I have grown older, I have realized that Brandon is more than just a big brother that I can quarrel with. What makes Brandon exceptional is not the fact that he almost died at the age of six or that he suffers from a debilitating disease, it is the strength that has remained throughout all of this. He never complains about his handicaps, and he always seems to make the best out of any situation. Brandon never puts himself first and always considers everyone else’s needs and wants before his own. In reality, he is a great role model and a silent hero to me.

Brandon demonstrated his vigor at a young age. At age six, he suffered a near fatal accident at a playground that resulted in multiple skull fractures and permanent loss of hearing in his right ear. He had to re-learn how to walk and hear again because of severe damage to his inner ear. He did so without complaint. Brandon continued to be very active and was an average school student. He played baseball up until he was fourteen years old. He found his niche in high school, where he was recognized as a peer leader. He implemented a sign language class and teenagers against drunk driving class at his school. He was active in theatre; not only as an actor playing leading rolls, but also as manager of the tech crew for many of the performances and events at his high school. But his heroism did not end there. As a matter of fact, it was just beginning.

Throughout his life he has displayed a huge amount of courage and bravery. In 2003, Brandon “met” his wife through an online gaming program. After multiple trips to and from Singapore, he was married in 2005. That same year, Brandon’s weight went from one hundred and ninety pounds to one hundred and twenty five pounds. Typically, Brandon was a healthy person. He had an average weight and height, and he appeared to be in good health. But when Brandon began losing weight, he lost color in his face, and his body looked frail and tired. When he became fatigued and weak, people around him became concerned. Brandon complained of stomach pain after he ate, and he lacked the ability to keep his food in his body. After a few months of these symptoms, Brandon decided he needed to go to the doctor.
He was diagnosed with a severe case of Crohn’s. Crohn’s is a disorder that causes inflammation and swelling of the digestive tract and lining of the affected organ. In Brandon’s case, it affected mostly his small intestines. Brandon states, “At first, I felt invincible. I thought, ‘Bah, this can't be right.’ Then as it sunk in, I started to do some research on what it would mean for me, what to expect, what might be happening in the near future. It was very much a whirlwind of emotions, thoughts and feelings. I know a thought that crossed my mind was that I wouldn't be able to be a firefighter/EMT anymore and that bothered me very much. I thought... ‘I'm 25, how in the hell is this happening to me... I've never drank, I've never done drugs, I've lived a good life... why me?’” Through several months of struggle, including a clinical trial, he endured excruciating pain and other repulsive symptoms. There were periods of fear, doubt, and apprehension. But throughout it all, Brandon knew he could not give up. During his illness, you knew he was struggling, but you never heard him complain. He stayed conscious of other’s needs and put those needs above his own.

Even with Brandon’s illness, he remained a hero and a leader in our family. You could easily say that Brandon holds our family together. Our family tried to be dependable for Brandon, and his faith in God gave him incredible strength, which he still relies on today. When asked what role his family and friends played, Brandon says, “My family and friends were multiple roles for me. They were my strength when I felt too weak to continue, they were my listening post when I needed to vent, they were my ride when I couldn't drive myself to the hospital. I found that the friends I have in life are very much what I would consider true friends. They all stood by my side and helped in the ways each of them could. My family was there for me anytime I asked, and even times when I didn't ask. I relate it to a race, where my friends and family were the ones cheering me on, giving me water, etc. Without them, I don't think I could have made it through the struggle as I did. My family and friends were also a financial support. Knowing I would be without work for 6 months, everyone chipped in, in various ways to help Elen and me out.” Now, two and a half years after Brandon’s surgery, his health has returned; however, the Crohn’s will never go away. There is always a chance that it will return with a vengeance. Knowing all of that, Brandon is a volunteer firefighter, currently works for the American Red Cross, and dedicates his time for other civic duties. Brandon has a colostomy bag, and will have to live with this for the rest of his life. A colostomy bag is a bag that his body waste empties into so that his food does not have to be digested through the infected part of the small intestines. The bag is implanted on the side of his body, which he empties every few hours. This has been a struggle; yet once again, Brandon is able to overcome it.

Brandon is a giver and never seems to ask for anything or complain. He is known for never giving up, and will continue to be remembered that way forever. Throughout my life, he has been my guardian and more than just a big brother. To me, it is amazing that Brandon has survived two major incidents in his life; yet, has taken the negative things and made them constructive. Rather than viewing it as a punishment, Brandon sees his Crohn’s as a gift and an opportunity to grow as a person. He is neither angry nor mad, and he continues to give of himself to others when he has more than the right to not give at all. Brandon represents courage, hope, faith, integrity, compassion, and determination.

Since I have realized what a hero truly is, I live my life with Brandon in the back of my head. I continuously remember what he has been through and how he has dealt with it all. “Though Crohn's is a nasty disease I would never wish on anyone, I can say it took me down a notch. It put the brakes on in my life and I stopped and smelled the roses. I realized how observant my family was about my health and to what ends my friends and family would go. To this day I am grateful for those in my life who supported me, who cared for me, who continue to care for me. It's those little blessings I think we sometimes overlook,” says Brandon. Brandon has silently taught me that misfortunes in your life should never hold you back. You have to fight to get through it, and when you overcome to obstacle you are faced with, whatever it may be, you grow from it. A hero is not someone who saves the world; a hero is someone like my brother.





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