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Uncle Bryden | My Inspiration | Down Syndrome Awareness

I wrote this essay my senior year of high school. It meant a lot to me and my family. As I re-read the last few lines of this essay last month, I was re-inspired to live more like my Uncle B.
“I strive to have his determination, passion and willingness, but most of all; I want to make a difference. I want to teach. I want to change. I want to be everything he was to me.”
I may not be the Special Education and Elementary teacher I was planning on, but I hope that six years later I have made a difference to someone. In honor of his birthday today I’m re-sharing!

full essay below … warning: it’s long ;)

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Every day was spent like his last. His parents didn’t know he would be born with Down’s Syndrome or that nearly every system of his body would fail within his first month of life. At birth, he was immediately taken by the trauma team. Four hours later, he had already taken his first ambulance ride. He was rushed to another hospital with the equipment to keep his frail body alive. The doctors never told his parents that they did not expect him to live, only that he was very, very sick.
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His parents drove an hour and a half every single day to just look down through glass at their baby boy. Cuts and pokes in his skin were filled with tubes and wires, leaving scars all over his body. It wasn’t until he was nine days old that he felt the comfort of his mother’s arms around him for the first time. It was fifteen before he felt the security of his dad’s first embrace. By the end of his first two weeks of life he had already experienced kidney and liver failure and was diagnosed with a heart murmur. At three months old, he was recovering from open-heart surgery.
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He saw his home for the first time at four months old. After he was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension and went through a tracheotomy at six months, he was completely soundless, having no ability to vocally cry or laugh out loud. When he cried, it was just tears, no noise. Five and a half out of his first seven months were spent in urgent care and the others were spent in his home connected to life support. He would spend the rest of his life, with his weak lungs and body, in and out of the hospital. This once so fragile baby boy now stands, three months away from his twenty-first birthday, as my hero, my coach, my cheerleader, my best friend and my Uncle Bryden William Belnap.
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Bryden has now completed high school, no longer has a tracheotomy, and though he has issues with his speech, he can talk, laugh, cry, and sing off-key with gusto. Through every test, every tube, every diagnosis, and every trial, he keeps on going. He keeps on smiling. He keeps on breathing. He keeps on loving. There has been no other role model that has changed my life the way Bryden has. His attitude on life, living, loving, working and playing has helped sculpt me into the person I am today.
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With his determination, he teaches me to never quit. Whenever he attends one of my sport events or when he comes to one of my music concerts, Bryden is my coach or conductor. He is the one who cheers me on when I want to give up, claps even when I make a mistake, and stands right next to the actual coach making sure I go in to the game when I’m supposed to. He is the one who drives my success.
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One day, I came home from school and work and felt like I just couldn’t go on. I had tests to study for, pages of homework and projects to finish for the next day. Although Bryden couldn’t tell me how to do my work, or help me find the answers, he was there, patting my back with a big smile across his face. He gave me the courage to keep going. With his encouragement and support, I can accomplish anything. He has taught me perseverance and determination through whatever adversity may come my way.
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With his passion, he teaches me to become the person I dream to be. Starting high school, I was scared that I would be different and I was scared to be myself, worried about what people would say or think about me. I wanted to run for a student office and join clubs, but I was too nervous. Then, I started to watch. I watched as Bryden slammed away at his drums and sang as loud as he could, even though no one could understand his words. I watched as he sat in the middle of his High School Band, trombone in hand, playing away to whatever notes he could hit. I watched as he put down his instrument and ran into the team huddle to wrap up a big basketball game. I watched how he did what he loved and didn’t let others stand in his way and I learned. I learned his determination. I learned to be involved.
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With his open and willing mind, he teaches me to try, to serve, and to love. No matter who they are, what they look like, where they are from or what they are doing, Bryden will treat everyone with love, kindness and respect. When I was in Elementary School, Bryden came to my house to visit and wanted to go on a bike ride. The only bike that he could fit on was my little sister’s pink bike with a pink basket, pink horn, and pink pompoms. We rode up and down our street and came across a group of boys on the corner. The boys started pointing, laughing, and mocking Bryden and his little pink bike. Bryden stopped his bike, greeted every little boy and joined in on their laughter. That day I promised myself, I would never laugh at someone who was different. Bryden taught me how to be accepting and open-minded. He taught me to love everyone, especially those who are different.

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It wasn’t until I was about eight years old when I realized he wasn’t like me, he wasn’t like my sisters or brothers. He wasn’t like my parents, grandparents, cousins or uncles. He was better. Bryden was everything I’ve aspired to be from that day forward. I strive to have his determination, passion and willingness, but most of all; I want to make a difference. I want to teach. I want to change. I want to be everything he was to me.
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November 19, 2015

Kylee Maughan

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