Alex Dixon contracted pneumonia halfway through fourth grade. Prior to that time she was a bright, kind, and sometimes socially awkward child. Academics came easily to her. She loved animals, playing the piano, art, and playing outside. The pneumonia triggered a glitch in her central nervous system and she would never fully recover from her illness. The glitch caused her body to contort and she experienced considerable pain. She missed a great deal of school and spent much of her days in hospitals seeking a cure for her illness. By the time she began sixth grade she was confined to a wheelchair and still in pain.
Alex began sixth grade in the gifted program. She continued to excel academically as well as with art and piano. However, her condition took a significant turn for the worse halfway through sixth grade, two years after the initial onset. Her body began contorting in terrible ways, causing hundreds of dislocations every day. It seemed that she would not survive. She was flown to a hospital in the Midwest and placed in a coma in an attempt to buy time as new medications were introduced, but to no avail. On February 23, 2010, Alex underwent brain surgery as a last effort to save her life. It was her sister’s tenth birthday and Alex was just twelve years old. The surgery did not go well although it did resolve her original problems. An accident caused a massive stroke to the left hemisphere of Alex’s brain. She was placed in a coma for many weeks in order to increase her likelihood of survival. Her classmates were behind her and folded a thousand paper cranes so that she might get her wish to live.
Alex survived. She came out of the coma and slowly recovered memories of her life experiences but not of her academics. She knew her family but not their names. She didn’t even know her own name. She came home from the hospital in June and was determined to enter seventh grade with her peers in August. It has been just a little more than four years since her stroke. She has spent that time relearning to eat, walk, care for herself, speak, read, write, and do math. She has more determination than can be imagined. She is in regular classes with a one-on-one aide. She works nonstop. While her right hand is no longer helpful to her, she is writing better than many with her left hand. She is has not given up on her right hand and spends countless hours in therapy trying to regain use. She discarded, first the wheelchair and, eventually, her cane.
At the end of her ninth grade year, Alex passed both her state algebra and reading tests, achieving a five out of five in algebra. She is liked by her peers and adored by her teachers. She has a “Yes I Can” attitude that is nothing less than contagious. Alex has certainly encountered roadblocks and hardship resulting in significant disabilities over the past four years. However, her resilience, strength, and determination are unmatched and her future is wide open. She has decided to take her experiences and put them to good use by providing motivational presentations to teachers, parents, and medical professionals. She feels that by sharing her story and how she overcame such immense hardships she can motivate others to do the same.