“Would you recognize him?”, she asked. I stared intently at the boy. There was something something about him that seemed vaguely familiar, but certainly didn’t stand out to me. It had been a half dozen years since I’d seen him, and he was a baby then. My mind wandered back to a hospital room, where I had discussed his likely future outcome with his new foster mom. The brain injury he had suffered at the hands of his mom’s boyfriend was one of the worse I’d seen. I was certain he would die, and when he didn’t, I secretly wondered if it wouldn’t have been a better outcome than the life he was now beginning.
She had listened to my medical opinion, and then announced that I didn’t know what I was talking about and that he would not only walk, he would do much more. I didn’t press the issue. We could work that out over time.
“Would you?”, she asked again. “No, I don’t think so”. The school-age boy was sitting on a bench in my office playing his handheld video game. “You told me he wouldn’t walk, but he does a lot more than that. He is in school, and he draws pictures and is learning how to read.” For a half hour she went on to share details of their life together since she had become his foster mom. She was so proud of him. She believed in him. And it had made all the difference.
The truth is, I don’t know why some kids with a brain injury lie silent, fed by tubes their entire lives, while others walk and talk and run. But I do know this – hope is a powerful thing. It can change the outcome of a disease or of a life. And another thing I know? It is contagious. I left that room feeling more of it than my heart could even begin to hold.
Sometimes it is nice to be wrong.