An Optimistic Student Battles Multiple Sclerosis

Fernando%27s+overpowering+optimism+is+obvious+by+his+huge+smile.
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An Optimistic Student Battles Multiple Sclerosis

Fernando's overpowering optimism is obvious by his huge smile.

Fernando's overpowering optimism is obvious by his huge smile.

Fernando's overpowering optimism is obvious by his huge smile.

Fernando's overpowering optimism is obvious by his huge smile.

Eduardo Mazariegos, Contributor

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Students at SRHS might know Fernando as the student that says “Yea bro” across the hall or maybe as the student that had the last shot at the student vs teacher basketball ball game. Yet, many students at school don’t know that he has multiple sclerosis.

Multiple sclerosis is a disease that involves damage to the nerve cells of the spinal cord and brain.

I was at the school library during my free period studying, and then I started talking to the San Rafael High School senior Fernando Hernandez (he recently changed his last name). Our conversation led to him explaining about a disease called multiple sclerosis which affects him greatly. We had a long conversation about the disease and he even brought me a book from the library called Multiple Sclerosis by Edward Susman. The next day I asked him if I could write about him, and I got his timid approval but with a positive attitude.

I went to San Pedro Elementary with Fernando. I noticed he had a slightly crooked back, and I assumed he got into an accident. I remember during recess we would play soccer with the rest of our grade.

“I remember those days in San Pedro that we would all play soccer…that was the best feeling,” Fernando said with glee.

The transition from elementary school to middle school was difficult for Fernando. One school day he woke up with a painful migraine, so he went to the clinic the same morning. The clinic told him they couldn’t help, so they sent him to UCSF. At UCSF he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He was told he couldn’t do any physical activities because it could threaten his life.

“I was nervous and scared that day. I used to play soccer. It was fun and my father would always watch me. When I was told that I couldn’t play soccer, it just made me sad,” said Fernando.

When I was a sophomore, I had world history with him. Immediately I noticed how bold and funny he was. Occasionally he would get the class’s attention by making jokes, and he would always eat his food during class. I found it hilarious since we had lunch right before class. Sometimes he was funny and sometimes he’d irritate me with his non-stop chatting. I quite admired him for his confidence and lovely personality. Either way, he has always been a person with plenty of spirit despite his health challenges.

Having that one conversation with Fernando about his health condition changed my perspective. I now understand why he likes getting attention. Multiple sclerosis stripped him of his ability to do many activities that allow him to be happy. He gets the class’s attention because it helps him keep his positive attitude, but he did not always have a positive attitude.

Ben Johnson, campus security at SRHS, could identify his MS by his fatigue in his freshman year. Also, he knew he had MS because he gets a report of students that need support. Ben has become like a mentor to Fernando throughout his high school experience.

“Not many people notice his multiple sclerosis after his freshman year because I got him into the weight room to do strength training,” said Ben.

“I am impressed on Fernando’s transformation from freshman year to now. He’s physically stronger, sometimes he slides to mild depression,” said Ben.

When Fernando slides to mild depression, he recognizes the situation and controls his personality and illness.

“He is really enjoyable to be around, so he makes friends easily. Now he’s very a social and an outgoing person. That was not the case his freshman year,” Ben said proudly.

I showed him an image of a glass of water and I asked him, “is this glass half full or half empty?”

“The glass of water is half full,” said the ever-optimistic Fernando.

There are very few students at SRHS that know about Fernando’s MS, and their opinions of him are nothing but positive.

“I think Fernando’s multiple sclerosis is not noticeable. I see him as a normal person like everyone else,” said SRHS junior Dominic Blanco

“I noticed he’s willing to talk more about himself and he is a very cool person,” added SRHS junior Angelina Covillo.

Fernando has a strong admiration for Ben.

“If it was not for Ben I would have probably dropped out of high school because he has helped me grown and he helps me with my problems,” said Fernando.

No doubt Ben’s character has helped Fernando succeed. I think Fernando is being modest because the obstacles changed him and Ben only guided him. He was not obligated by Ben to overcome the obstacle of MS. He did it of his own will. From what I can see, Fernando is a force of his own.

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