A note from Ben: The greatest stories aren’t always publicized or celebrated. The Mahogany Workplace wants to change that with our “Highlight a Hero” series. I don’t take the word “hero” lightly here. I’ve made a good friend who stands for everything heroes represent. He cares for the forgotten, loves unconditionally, brings light to dark situations, and fights the good fight — all while struggling with paralyzing pain. We’ve made many great memories together, and I want him to share his story with you. Everyone, meet Avery!
My name is Avery Becker. I love to write and sing, and most importantly I want to show the world what I can do. Sometimes people don’t think they can learn anything from a kid like me, and I’m going to prove them wrong. I’m proud of my life and who I am — the things I’ve fought for — and I want to help others by writing about what I’ve been through.
Despite being a 19-year-old guy who lives in Colorado, I have a lot of time on my hands because I’m sick a lot. I was born with something called Russell-Silver syndrome, a form of dwarfism characterized by slow growth. Doctors also diagnosed me with with a rare stomach and intestine disorder. All things considered, I basically grew up in the hospital.
When I was around two years old I was told I have an extra amount of eosinophils, which attack your nerves and cause a lot of problems. I’d get nauseous from my motility and stomach problems. Whenever I ate or drank I threw up. So, by the time I was four, I received a central line (an IV placed into your heart) to infuse nutrients and fat intravenously. This is how I eat.
When I was younger I was really tiny because of my Russell-Silver syndrome. My classmates looked like they could be my parents, and they always called me “baby” at school. No one thought I could talk because I was so painfully shy. During this time, the doctors didn’t check my blood sugar and I experienced a massive stroke.
No one thought I would live. They said even if I survived, I may never walk or talk again. But God was with me every moment and a miracle happened. My pastor and parents prayed that I would be okay, and I said, “Amen” at the end. My mom says that was the first word of my new life.
I think this could be why I am alive today; God wasn’t done with me yet — he had more plans for me.
I obviously wasn’t cured or I wouldn’t be sitting here in the hospital right now, but God gave me back my life. And I was just happy to receive a second chance. I learned to walk and talk, and I proved the doctors wrong.
Since then, I cannot possibly count all the surgeries and procedures I’ve experienced. I’ve gone to the hospital weekly if not daily for almost 19 years. Not too long ago doctors diagnosed me with another rare disease called Churg-Strauss syndrome (CSS), which mostly affects older people around 50-70. Clearly I’m not that old… yet!
For a kid, Churg-Strauss syndrome is super rare. (There are about 40 kids in the world who have CSS.) This autoimmune disease attacks my organs. So doctors put me on chemo drugs and experimental drugs to help. Unfortunately that means I don’t have an immune system, so I get sick often and still experience seizures.
Back to my proportional dwarfism… I got bullied quite a bit in middle school. One time a boy grabbed my neck and nearly strangled me. He told the principal he was just playing around, but he just wanted to make his friends laugh. Another kid pushed, pinched, and verbally bullied me a lot. I was always too short and skinny to fight back. In high school I didn’t encounter as many bullies, but I still felt insecure about how small I am.
Over time I learned that I can’t let people make me feel less confident. In the long run, height doesn’t matter; it’s your personality that makes you who you are. God made each of us, and we need to remember that our differences are what make us special. We need to be confident that we are incredibly made. Thank you for reading and for your support! Stay tuned for more from me next week.
By Avery Becker
Note from MW: Avery has an amazing perspective on life as do millions of others who are harmed by bullies. This week, try and engage someone who appears ignored or bullied in your sphere of influence. Then let us know how it goes! And leave an encouraging comment here for Avery, too.