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Though my brother John is two years and three days younger than I, he is one of my biggest role models. He is not as smart as most, he is not athletic in the least, he can be incredibly annoying, but, still, I look up to him. John was born perfectly healthy. The real drama started when he was only four months old. My parents noticed that he was different from most babies. He had episodes that my mom could only describe as “bizarre.” So, my parents took him to the doctor, and he was diagnosed with infantile spasms. Later, however, they learned that he was misdiagnosed and actually was born with a brain defect called cortical dysplasia that caused two additional conditions: epilepsy and partial right hemiplegia. Basically, my brother’s brain did not form correctly leaving him with a right arm and leg much weaker than the left and a mild form of seizures.

I grew up knowing that John was different, but I thought everyone had a brother or sister that was not like everyone else. I remember going with my mom and John to physical, occupational, and speech therapy, but that was never weird to me. It was just something everyone had to do. Then, when I was about six years old, I saw a girl at John’s doctor’s office. This girl had a major case of cerebral palsy. She was in a wheel chair, her head was drooped to the side, and she had a glazed-over look on her face. I remember thinking, “Wow. I wonder what it’s like to have a brother or sister with a disability.” Then, I realized, I do have a disabled sibling. John may not be as severely disabled as some, but he is still different. He is still challenged daily.

Though John has been through many trials because of his conditions, he is one of the happiest people I know. When he was a baby, my mom had to learn how to give him injections daily to administer his medication. After he was able to take pills, John was always on a different medicine. When he was about six-years-old, John’s doctor had him taking nine pills at one time. John was extremely proud of his being able to swallow all the pills at once, and I finally realized that he was an incredible person. After the pills stopped working, John was put on the Ketogenic Diet. This diet is supposed to trick the body into thinking it is starving. As a result of the so-called starving, the brain supposedly “rewires” itself and stops seizures. After working for two years, the diet stopped having an affect on John. Next, John’s neurologist suggested brain surgery. My parents were reluctant to put their son through such an invasive surgery until the next summer. John went swimming with some friends and had a seizure in the water. He was under water and unconscious for about minute and breathed in a good amount of water. Luckily, two of the adults at the pool were certified lifeguards, so John was in good hands until the ambulance arrived. He stayed in the hospital for a night, but was back to normal by the next day. This episode startled my family, especially my parents who subsequently agreed to the surgery.

The surgery went well, and after a week in the ICU, John returned home and fully recovered within a couple of months. John’s seizures had stopped and everyone was elated. Then, we took a family vacation to the beach in early October. We made it through the whole week, but when it came time to leave, John had a seizure. As you can imagine, this devastated John, our family, our friends, and the doctors. We all thought we were through with seizures, but unfortunately, we were mistaken. After many months of confusion over what went wrong John’s neurologists decided that he could benefit from another surgery. So, less than a year later, our family trekked back to the children’s hospital for another surgery. This time, the seizures returned almost immediately. The doctors had, and still have, no idea why the surgery was not successful. All the test results said that it should have worked, but for whatever reason, it did not.

John’s second surgery was two years ago. Today, he is a vivacious fifteen-year-old at the end of his freshman year of high school. John is incredibly funny and energetic. He has taken his disabilities and turned them into strengths, encouraging almost everyone he meets. He constantly pushes me to be more relaxed and to love people no matter how different they are. At times, John’s issues are a struggle for him, for me, and for the rest of our family. That said, his disabilities have definitely made me, and others around him, better





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