42: The Champ

42: The Champ

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses

The Champ

What does it take to be a champion? Desire, dedication, determination, concentration and the will to win.

~Patty Berg

Tim was a fifth grader when I met him. He had autism and some physical challenges, one of which was severe congenital anatomical problems that made it impossible for him to control his bowels. He wore adult diapers and had a regimented daily bowel program. Odor was always a problem, which as he became older became a social issue too.

Tim and I bonded immediately. He was a funny young man, obsessed with professional wrestling. So, being a non-athlete myself, I asked my college-age son, Larry, to give me a quick lesson on World Wrestling Entertainment and John Cena, Tim’s favorite wrestler. I learned enough to equal a fifth grader’s knowledge, and Larry gave me daily updates on John Cena’s record, matches, personality traits and the world of WWE.

I saw Tim every day because he used my health office bathroom for his bowel program and his adult diaper needs. We had to have many talks about his hygiene and the odor issue when he did not change frequently enough. We always talked about Mr. Cena, who Tim referred to only as “The Champ.”

One day, when Tim was in seventh grade, he was in my freshly painted bathroom late in the day and I heard him using the room deodorizer spray. When I came in the next morning, I gasped to see CHAMP, THE CHAMP, WWE, and JOHN CENA written all over the walls. Tim claimed he didn’t know the room deodorizer would stain the walls. I, of course, had to report it and Tim, of course, had to help repaint the bathroom.

Tim’s grandmother did a fabulous job raising Tim and his siblings. We spoke often and she knew I would do whatever I could to help. We talked a lot about his bowel issues. So far he had not been teased about it, but I was sure that was on the horizon. Hopefully girls were on the horizon too. It took many conversations and much convincing for her to see that he was a young man facing social stigmas and if surgical corrections could be made, this was the time to do it. It still took several years before Grandmom took him to a surgeon, but surgery was eventually scheduled.

I left the middle school for a high school job. Tim, Grandmom, and I lost touch.

Several years passed and on one of the worst days of my life, the day of my mother’s funeral, my phone rang. My home was filled with company when my husband called me to the phone, not recognizing the name of Tim’s grandmother on the caller ID. It seems that they thought about me as much as I thought about them. She wanted me to know that Tim had his surgery and how it had changed their lives. He went on to high school and was thriving beautifully with friends. We chatted for a while and I thanked her for making that awful day brighter.

Several years later, I was in the waiting room of one of my physicians when in walked Tim and his grandmother! He was all grown up, tall and thin, but still had that quality about him I will never forget. His voice had deepened and he had a scruffy beard but we recognized each other immediately.

“CHAMP!” he shouted. He eagerly told me he was in community college studying computer software and he was close to earning his degree. He had a colostomy that he cared for himself, a girlfriend, and he still loved WWE and THE CHAMP. With the help of medication, he had overcome many of his learning difficulties and was doing better than he ever thought possible.

The tears in my eyes clouded the light in his.

~Lynn B. Zoll

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