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Smile

Anthony’s Smile

smile

Here is the smile we’ve all been waiting for! Thank you all for your kind words of support, which came primarily via Facebook. After reading some of your comments, I realized how depressing Anthony’s medical history sounds. Yes, he has had some difficult times, but really, he has only had four serious medical issues in his 21 years, which is really good for a kid with such severe cerebral palsy.

Obviously, the abuse that caused his disability to begin with was his first challenge. That was back in 1994. His birth mom was mentally ill and abusive. We don’t know who Anthony’s birth father was, not sure his mother even knew. Anthony was placed in foster care at 17 months of age and then he joined our family in 2000. It was amazing how easily Anthony fit into our family and he had many happy years with no medical problems.

In spite of his disability – or perhaps because of it – he is the happiest kid you’d ever meet. He loves people, he enjoys being out and about. He loved school when he was able to go and his smile can light up a room, as you can see by the photo above. He is currently a favorite here in the ICU at UMass.

His other three medical problems were mention in the previous post: 2006 spinal fusion, 2010 intestinal volvulus / J-tube and 2014 pneumonia / tracheostomy. Between these times, he was happy and for the most part healthy.

Although doing the laryngotracheal separation was a difficult decision, as long as Anthony recovers and gets back to his typical happy self, it’s well worth the risk, because his quality of life will be much better. Nothing is more important than being able to breathe easily. Breathing is good.

Project Smile:-)

Anthony is technically in 11th grade, but because of his significant disability, he is in a specialized program called “Project Smile”. Most of the kids in Project Smile are wheelchair dependent, non-verbal and have severe developmental disabilities. The classroom is at a typical high school, so there are some inclusion opportunities.

One neat program they have at this high school is that the regular education students can volunteer in the Project Smile classroom and actually get credit for volunteering. In addition to helping out in the class, the students have to write a paper about what they learned from Project Smile.

Here are some of the things the students wrote:

“I have learned so many different things, most of them are simple things that many people overlook in daily life.”

“I learned that having ‘support’ is a good thing and that everyone needs support.”

“Project Smile is an excellent program that gave me a positive outlook and made me realize how fortunate I am to be healthy.”

“Helping these kids gives you a great feeling of reward.”

“I gained much respect for all the people who make helping others their life.”

“When I first entered Smile, this was all new to me. I had never seen anything close like that before, but now it is all normal to me.”

“This program has made me see life differently through the kids eyes.”

“For every kid in the class a touch of them will stay in my heart forever. Because of them, I have become less judgmental and I will take that with me for the rest of my life.”

“The day I walked into the classroom, the screams I heard scared me enough to never want to come back. I never thought that those screams would mean just as much to me as words by the end of the year.”

“The students in Project Smile have changed my life in numerous ways and this has by far been the best experience of my life.”

“Going to Project Smile was a blast and I enjoyed every minute of it and would be sad when the bell rang for the next class.”

“The very important thing that I learned is that don’t judge a book by its cover, because you never know what is inside.”

“I will always remember the number 104 as a classroom that change my life; that changed my views of everything, that have truly made my senior year worthwhile”.

“The program taught me not to be selfish and to think of others.”

“From Anthony I learned that a smile really shows a lot and that it’s a pretty easy thing to give.”