When bravery is found in the most unlikely places

Kristina Wyman's picture
Kaitlyn Akers

What is bravery?

Is it the ability to confront things that make you nervous?

Is it the ability to keep your head held high as you wait for news that could change your life?

Is it the ability to keep a smile on your face as you have surgery that could change the rest of your life?

Let’s be honest with each other for a few minutes.

We all complain about something; whether it be about a bad hair day, too much homework, our car not starting or the ever-famous “my alarm didn’t go off” (because that has happened to us all, right?)

But have we ever considered that sometimes, there are people in the world that have it worse than us? We live day by day complaining about the worst, but refuse to look forward to the best.

I have a cousin (one among the many), Addy Stricklin, who, unlike most, looks forward to the best in every day. She doesn’t live her life in the constant complaining mode that we seem to be stuck in.

Addy was born with a rare form of dwarfism called Campomelic Dysplasia and has had many complications come with it.

When she was a baby, they had to put a tracheotomy in because she was also born with flappy upper and lower airways and couldn’t hold a breath long enough. The ventilator holds her airways open longer for a deeper breath. She also had a gastrointestinal tube (G-Tube) when she was younger because she couldn’t eat.

Addy defied what the doctors had originally said because she wasn’t originally supposed to live.

But now, Addy can eat soft foods like applesauce, pudding and baby food to name a few. Due to mild hearing loss, she has bone conducting hearing aids and has learned to breath around her tracheotomy, leading her to learn how to talk. Her mother, Hannah, says that she hasn’t stopped talking since.
She can verbally communicate with you if you stand close to her and she can also communicate through sign language.

Every year, my cousin Trish hosts a family party and Addy is always the life of the party. She walks around smiling, interacts with the other cousins (my family is huge) and has the time of her life.

Addy is probably the bravest person in the world. At seven years old, she flew to Delaware with her family for a surgery that would change her life permanently. She had a surgery on her spine and has another one scheduled for February 9.

In simple terms, the doctors in Delaware are applying a halo to Addy’s spine in hopes of straightening it, because where her spine is now (think of it like a C) could potentially cut off her airways. Weight is then applied to the Halo slowly as they watch her neurological numbers, but the ultimate goal down the line is that her spine would be straight.

Hannah writes a journal periodically in order to keep our large family up to date with everything that is happening.

So, what is bravery?

I think bravery is sitting in a hospital bed, playing with Polly Pockets, having your make-up done and enjoying that your family is there to support you 100 percent.

I think that bravery is undergoing a surgery that could potentially paralyze you for the rest of your life.

I think that bravery is smiling through it all, knowing that the doctors will do whatever they can to ensure your safety.

Addy Stricklin: the bravest of them all.

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