Life is tricky and full of changes that no one can control. Sometimes things happen that makes our perspective on everything change. You never know what can happen or never know why things are the way they are; so all there is left to do is put up your sleeves and “roll with the punches.”
My name is Autumn, and Anthony is my younger brother. We live just outside Denver, CO, in a cute little neighborhood. I go to high school, play tennis, and have dreams on going to New York one day. My life without Anthony, though, I wouldn’t know what that picture would look like. He and I were close before this happened, like most siblings, but after his brain aneurysm, Anthony and I were inseparable. Let’s go back in time to the day that changed my life forever:
Middle of first period, I get called down to the office. Of course, the irrational fear of getting yelled at by the principal is in the forefront of my mind. I had absolutely no idea what I was walking into.
The office personnel led me to a room, never a good sign, and a counselor unfamiliar face sat me down while a small group of teachers watched and told me that my brother had fallen and that they had called an ambulance.
My blood started to boil, I felt all my emotions rush through me within a split of second — the next thing I knew tears were running down my face. All I could think of was Anthony — my best friend, my little brother, was alone and I had no idea what was happening to him.
The 30 minutes it took for my Grandma to pick me up felt like the longest five years of my life. My Grandma took me to St. Anthony’s just outside of Denver, where they allowed me to see him for just a minute. When we finally got to the hospital, my family met with the doctor. He told us that Anthony had very little chance of surviving.
Hearing the doctor say that was like the worst pain imaginable, but a thousand times harder. I remember immediately feeling guilty, because I didn’t get to say “I love you.” I also remember wiping the tears from my eyes, and looking around the ICU unit, hearing my parents weep, and finally thinking that I had to be strong because my parents were in lots pain. I felt I had no right to be upset when they were feeling so sad. That day two years ago was truly one of the worst experiences of my life, but one experience that made me grow up fast and turned out to be one of the biggest and greatest learning lessons of my life.
November of 2017, I watched from the stairs as the Kyle Mengelkamp and Liam Alexander, aka #StrokeofGenius team walked into my home and set up their equipment. My first impression was not like spectacular or anything, I didn’t know what to think, I have never experienced that before. It might have been a bit odd to have strangers in my house.
My brother had met Kyle, the producer of the documentary just before the set up. Again, I did not think much of the whole thing; although, it was still interesting to see my brother interact with Kyle. Kyle, having a brain aneurysm 20 years ago, it was comforting to know he was not the only one who had gone through these struggles. I continued to watch the two curiously as they interacted, surrounding Anthony with lights and cameras, asking him about everything that had happened to him and how he felt about it. I wasn’t really impacted until the next morning when Kyle took my brother skiing at Winter Park, where the Olympian’s train. It was really inspiring to see for the first time since the incident, Anthony really could do anything he set his mind to do.
For so long, we were hoping Anthony would get into these little milestones, sort of like climbing the steps in recovery. To see Kyle, 20 years later, the stories and experiences, the hardships and struggles, successes and happiness, Kyle was the best thing anyone could have imagined at that time because he put us all at comfort and brought hope for the future for Anthony and our family that everything was going to be ok. Everyone thought that Anthony was still this fragile little boy that needed to be sheltered from the world. Before the day at Winter Park with Kyle and Liam, Anthony let all those things get to him and for awhile he didn’t believe in himself. He wouldn’t talk when we knew he could; he wouldn’t walk when we knew he could, sometimes he would just shut down because he thought he couldn’t do it…in other words, give up. After the experience with Kyle and Liam, something clicked inside him and he seemed to brighten up. It was like he finally knew that he could do anything again and he wasn’t gonna let the aneurysm or anything else stop him.
This was a really hard time in our lives, and writing this piece made me look at those memories and realize some things I learned from that moment that I would like to share:
- 1. (This one might sound cheesy) But NEVER take anything for granted. It never really occurred to me how much I needed Anthony until I didn’t have him. I missed all those nights we would stay up watching TV in my bed. I even missed when we would argue over stupid little things that never really mattered. I missed everything about him, I never realized how important he was to my growth as a human being and now I am much more appreciative that I get to wake up knowing that he is alive.
- 2. Don’t sweat the small things. Nothing puts life in perspective quite like a life or death situation. How could I worry about losing my school ID while my brother was sick in the hospital? When things like this happen, nothing else really matters, so try not to worry about the little unnecessary things that happen every day. Enjoy life, celebrate the mornings, and live for your dreams. We have a lot to do on earth
As for me, I have taken these two things I have learned and built a much deeper friendship with Anthony, and my family. I can see my dreams of living in New York City more of a reality. Though I have more comfort knowing that Anthony will be ok, meeting Kyle and seeing his life, it has given me much more confidence in pursuing me dreams.