Jose Dybzinski, 15, radiates joy despite an array of complicated health problems, including chronic kidney disease, leukemia, renal failure and pancreatic cysts. Jose has written many stories in his journal and wants to write his autobiography. He also loves watching old movies like Jaws, Alien and The Towering Inferno.
Nineteen-year-old Gabrielle Boylan, who goes by Gabe, has attended the Lerner School at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Autism since she was 12. She has mental retardation and kidney, orthopaedic and behavioral issues. She’s a social, fun-loving teenager who readily compliments her friends and acquaintances.
Within 72 hours of admission to Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital and being placed on life support, Jaime Bradford received a heart and double lung transplant. She used to become breathless just playing her guitar. Now, the 17-year-old goes mall-walking like any other teen.
Nine year-old Kevin has endured more challenges and debilitating medical conditions than most adults face in a lifetime. Despite his diagnosis of mitochondrial disease, epilepsy, as well as autism (all life-long disorders), he still greets each new day with a big smile on his face. Mitochondria are responsible for converting food into energy to run the body. Dysfunctional mitochondria impair cells from making energy, and for Kevin, his mitochondrial disease mainly affects his brain, manifesting as seizures, autism, reduced coordination, and severely impaired communication. Kevin has daily seizures, sometimes requiring hospitalization. His autism affects information processing in his brain so he struggles to make sense of the world around him. Difficulties with coordination cause frequent falls and his impaired communication makes it very difficult to express himself. He has tried 15 different treatments for seizures and currently takes over 40 pills per day. Nevertheless, through it all, Kevin is thriving. According to one of his teachers, “His courage humbles those that know him and he leaves them with a changed approach to life."
On August 7, 2007, Chris was diagnosed with Stage IV rhabdomyosarcoma (malignant tumor of the soft tissue and muscles that are attached to the bone) and has been followed in the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic since then. His tumor has recurred twice, leading to increasingly intense treatments. During this time, he has endured many losses – his health, schooling, hair, and ultimately, the opportunity to enjoy his childhood – yet during it all, Chris has never complained. His bright smile and can do attitude is why many have referenced him as their hero.“A Quiet Warrior,” is how his care team describes Chris. Even though he walks with a limp and every step is painful, Chris never winces. Even following excruciatingly painful procedures, Chris thanks his team for taking care of him and even through each of the hardships, Chris is always smiling. “Chris comes in with a smile on his face every day and brightens our day just by being here.” He is adored and greatly respected by all for his kindness, grace, and perseverance with all that he has faced.
Andrew is a handsome blue-eyed young man who unfortunately has faced numerous issues since he was 10 weeks old; including a diagnosis of kyphoscoliosis and polio. Kyphoscoliosis, a curving of the spine, impacts both social and physical activities due to restricted lung capacity. Polio, a disease that inflames the brainstem and spinal cord, leads to loss of voluntary movement and muscular wasting. As a result, his conditions certainly prevented him from experiencing life as a typical 13 year-old boy.Each day, under the direction of his care team, Andrew spent exhausting hours rigorously completing intense physical therapy to strengthen his body and build endurance. Thankfully, his hard work paid off. His recent successful surgery has given Andrew the opportunity to be a true teenager. Despite his ongoing medical challenges, as well as personal family hardships in recent years, Andrew remains strong and ready to face the next difficulty. According to his care team “When a young man can face his struggles and challenges in such a positive and unselfish manner he becomes a role model, not just for his peers but for adults as well.”
Austin Tome is our hero.
Austin was diagnosed with a malignant, soft tissue tumor that started in his abdomen and liver in 2007. That year he underwent chemotherapy and received a liver transplant. Throughout his on and off treatment in the past two years, Austin’s caring spirit has not wavered. Austin is known among hospital staff for presenting his transplant surgeon with a locket that says, “my hero,” and he is often seen caring for his baby brother who was born during this period.
Remington Feller is our hero.
Remington was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy in 2005, a genetic disease that causes muscle deterioration and inevitable loss of mobility with time. Faced with a treatment plan that was only expected to postpone the need of a wheelchair for 18 months, Remington has defined perseverance as he continues to swim and play baseball today, more than four years later.
Logan Huba is our hero.
Logan woke up one morning in 2007 and he was unable to walk. He was diagnosed with Fibrocartilaginous Embolism, a rare condition that caused scar tissue in his spinal cord, and required a wheelchair. Since then, Logan has tirelessly worked to regain mobility and today he walks with only one leg brace. During his rehabilitation, he was named an Eagle Scout and he now attends the University of Akron, where he is studying biomedical engineering.
Elizabeth Brassell is our hero.
At eight months of age Elizabeth was diagnosed with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy. Since then, she has undergone numerous painful surgeries to aid her physical development. Today, despite the loss of functional use of her lower extremities, ten year old Elizabeth continues to exemplify great bravery throughout every facet of her life. She faces every day and every situation with the patient attitude of "that's just who I am."
Joseph Conway is our hero.
Joseph is unable to eat the way every child should. After being diagnosed with a tumor in his brainstem, he suffered multiple complications including the inability to control his own breathing which made a tracheotomy necessary. This led to a failure to swallow safely, thus requiring an alternative feeding method. To his family and friends, Joseph is funny, kind, smart, witty, patient, at times quiet, hard-working, tolerant and, above all, loving. To meet Joseph is to meet a young man who has the courage of a lion..
James Bowers is our hero.
Over a year and a half ago, at the age of nine James suffered a level L2 spinal cord injury from an automobile accident. He then had to adapt the activities of his daily life with the use of a wheelchair. Despite this drastic change, James persists through his disabilities. Perseverance, motivation, and humor are merely a few of James' best qualities; his maturity, for his young age, has enabled him to make the best of his situation.