By Faith Evans
He’s easy to spot coming around a corner, down the ramp, or exiting an elevator; sophomore Evan Breton does not mind being noticed and set apart from the crowd. Breton battles Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a neuromuscular condition that affects the brain stem and has left Breton wheelchair bound for life.
SMA is a genetic disorder that affects every 1 in 6,000 to 10,000 people. It is a recessive gene that approximately 1 in 40 people carry. If two people with the recessive gene have children, there is a 25% chance that their kids will have the condition. Breton has type 1 SMA, which is diagnosed at or just after birth and hinders muscle strength and control.
“Basically, my brain will say something, but the signal doesn’t get to my muscles. Somewhere along the way the message gets mixed up or completely lost,” Breton said.
These symptoms make Breton’s day unlike what most consider typical. Breton’s everyday routine includes waking up and having a parent wash his face, get him dressed, help him into his wheelchair, clean his glasses, and get him into the car to go off to school. He attends classes through fifth period, then he heads off to the nurse’s office to eat his liquidated lunch through a g-tube, which is comparable to a straw that goes straight into the stomach. After lunch and sixth period, he goes home and plays video games for a while until it is time to eat dinner, do homework, and go to bed.
Despite his taxing, out-of-the-ordinary daily life, Breton remains upbeat and cheerful. Along with playing video games, other favorite hobbies of his include studying history and building plastic models of military equipment. He hopes to pursue a career in engineering, specifically to develop technology that will protect the lives of soldiers out on the front lines. He admitted that this choice of occupation was slightly biased, for one of his first friends had previously served in Vietnam.
“His spirits are so high; it’s amazing,” Cassandra Poleydom, Breton’s aid, said. Poleydom accompanies Breton throughout his school day to assist him when necessary.
Though very open and personable, Breton also admits to being sarcastic, stubborn, and a fellow math-hater. His determined attitude has made him very persistent, and he rejects the label “handicapped,” for he tries to do everything he can by himself.
“Evan–he’s a fantastic kid. I enjoyed having him in my class almost more as a person than a student,” Mrs. Bolken, science teacher, said.
By his persistent yet light-hearted and open manner, one can see that Breton has come to accept and rise above all the challenges life has brought him. He’s always smiling, and a major lesson he said he’s learned in life is to appreciate all gifts so that life itself can be more fully appreciated. He loves answering questions, and he is quick-witted, easy to talk to, and above all, values the golden rule, “Treat others the way you wish to be treated.”
“Don’t be afraid of me, feel free to ask questions; I won’t bite. I’m just another kid,” Breton said.