Today, I'm sharing the story of my youngest brother, Andrew Le – a 15-year-old sophomore. This blog will touch upon Andrew's early life, his battles, his achievements, and how autism gives him a distinct perspective of the world.
Andrew's story starts earlier than most. Born at a mere 24 weeks, he made his entrance into the world amidst intense challenges. Upon arrival he had a hole in his heart, being underweight, and facing the harsh repercussions of hypoxia. With my mom bleeding out on the table and my brother turning blue it was a miracle that both of them survived. My brother was quickly intubated while the doctors patched up my mother.
The early part of Andrew's life was spent in the NICU, with a count of 173 days that felt eternal to us. Every beep of the NICU equipment told a tale of his relentless fight for survival. A brain bleed posed a frightening specter, but miraculously, it receded. Every day my father drove from work to pick me up and dropped me home with my grandmother and he visited my brother and my mom to make sure they were okay. The day my brother recovered and was released from the hospital is the day we thought the hard times were behind us.
When Andrew was three, we received a diagnosis that provided clarity but also posed new challenges: understanding autism. At the time we were lost. We did not know what to do or how to react. My parents did research for countless nights but all they found was general information that left them confused.
In the hospital due to a seizure.
Shortly after his diagnosis he faced night terrors, often transitioning into grand mal seizures in the early morning hours usually around 3-4 am. Our family's routine transformed, with my parents vigilantly monitoring him, ensuring his safety during these episodes. They would stay up at 3-5 am taking shifts each week to help him when he would have night terrors and seizures.
Being sick took a toll on Andrew. A simple cold could keep him down for weeks, often necessitating a respiratory machine's aid. Numerous hospital visits, surgeries ranging from his heart to his eyes, and a plethora of medications became routine.
Sick on respirator 2017.
Beyond these medical battles, everyday life presented its challenges. Public spaces, with their cacophony of sounds and lights, could overwhelm him, causing him to dissociate. A barrage of questions or an excess of focus might trigger a shutdown. Everyday activities, like showering or getting a haircut, became monumental tasks due to sensory sensitivities. And the mere mention of separation from loved ones would drown him in anxiety.
Andrew playing with his new Legos.
But in this sea of challenges, Andrew's triumphs shine like beacons. His cognitive abilities, especially his memory, are exceptional. At the age of five, while many of us were just getting a grip on our native language, Andrew was immersing himself in sign language and Spanish, all through videos. His affinity for numbers shines in his proficiency in math and science. And when it comes to his passions? Andrew is unstoppable, be it gaming, coding, or mastering the art of Lego construction.
Getting ready to catch them all. Trick or Treating October 2016.
Andrew’s journey has been one of resilience, determination, and discovering personal strengths amidst adversity. While he faces the world with his unique perspective, it's essential to remember that every individual's experience with autism is distinct. And in Andrew's case? His story is a testament to the human spirit's incredible ability to rise, shine, and triumph.