It didn’t help that he was extremely athletic. Involved in every sport possible, track—swimming, soccer, basketball, baseball—he did it all. He was small for these sports and was the underdog, but he liked it that way. He wanted people to underestimate him, so he could prove them wrong in the end.
When he was 10 he spent several days in the hospital and was eventually diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. It is rare for kids that young to get it, but then again, nothing was normal for him. It threatened his active lifestyle, but he refused to let it. I worried about him; worried about the toll it took on my parents. I might have become overprotective. But as he grew into a teenager, things seemed to be going well. He was slowly growing up and learning to take care of himself.
The day after he graduated from high school, he got a job at a recreational camp for kids in Manhattan, Kansas. He was excited to get to spend the summer with two of his best friends working waterfront. Excited, he took his wakeboard and GoPro with him to have the best summer in the sun possible. I worked at a different camp near home in Seattle, Washington. He was across the country, which was his first time really ever away from home.
I was enjoying my 4th of July, but little did I know how he was spending his. When my mom couldn’t get ahold of me, she took to Facebook, announcing she was flying to Kansas City to assess yet another accident. A friend reading this asked me how my brother was doing. I immediately called my mom and she said she didn’t really know anything other than the Manhattan Hospital airlifted him to a burn unit in Kansas City and she was flying out there to be with him. I instantly thought, does he have a face? Is he alive? What’s going on?
His eyes were swollen shut for days. He squirmed in extreme pain and the doctors shaved his head and face because the smell of his singed hair was making him sick. After several days, one eye finally opened. When he saw himself in the mirror for the first time, he promptly threw up because his face was so swollen he couldn’t tell it was him. He was a mess and I was terrified.
I was on the other side of the country praying constantly. My mind was always on him. I was scared and I didn’t know what to do. He had a community around him and an outpouring of love from all over the world—people from the community, church members, class members, people from his school, my school, his camp, my camp—all rallied around him in prayer.
A few weeks later he recovered from his accident enough to fly home. Still unsure if he would be able to see in his right eye, we hoped for the best. Doctors’ appointments after doctors’ appointments and surgeries after surgeries, he underwent in the course of a few months—all in hope of being able to see again.
When the results came back that he would never be able to use his right eye again, it devastated our family. What would this mean for his athletic lifestyle? Would he be able to drive? Would he be able to go to school?
But he seemed to process it fairly well. I knew he wouldn’t let this stop him. After all, nothing ever did. He is the strongest and happiest person I know. He trusts in God and knows that no matter what, he is taken care of. It has been a year and a half since the accident. He has been forced to learn to adjust to a narrower field of vision and still has an eye; he just can’t see out of it. Remarkably, he has recovered well; the only difference is his eye looks a little cloudy. He recently told me, “Sometimes people sneak up on me because I don’t see them coming. I sometimes bump into things, but it isn’t a big deal. I can still play basketball.”
He lives his life as any normal college student would. Life has tried to knock him down but he just gets up and keeps fighting. He knows that no matter what happens, God will always carry him through. He is using his story to be an example to others and what God can do in their lives.
Lauren Epperson writes from the Pacific Northwest.© 2002 - 2023, AnswersForMe.org. All rights reserved. Click here for content usage information.