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Faith Plays Big Role with Mom

Every now and then, a person featured here attributes faith as pivotal in their being able to cope with disability-one in themselves or family members. Sue Ihejirika of North Minneapolis, Minnesota, is one such example.

In a telephone interview, Ihejirika said, "(Our son) Spencer was born a typical kid, without any health problems, until he was about five. We had gone on a trip to Wisconsin and on the way back he began having a fever and sleeping for long periods of time."

That same month, in August 2004, on a train ride to Chicago, Spencer began vomiting and experienced at least two grand mal seizures. The hospital couldn't pinpoint a cause. Spencer wasn't talking, couldn't go to the bathroom alone, and was, Ihejirika said, "cognitively vacant." He started having even more seizures and fits of high fever. Then an MRI showed brain damage.

She said, "We think he was bit by a tick or mosquito carrying some type of disease. There really has never been a diagnoses for what happened except for brain damage. Doctors think an infection in his brain caused it."

After being homeschooled two years, Spencer recovered enough to return to public school and lead a relatively normal life given his cognitive limitations until last year at age 15. That's when he began experiencing severe symptoms all over again.

Ihejirika said, "He started showing more signs again of anxiety and fear, and he had a psychotic episode. The medication he was taking was hard on him. He went back to not being able to go to the bathroom alone and I had to help him with everything. For a while, he couldn't read books on his own or focus on anything."

He has improved since then, but still needs much more time than the average teenager to process information. He often needs instructions repeated, and his school modifies his school work to fit his current abilities. At school, Spencer plays football, and the coach loves his positive attitude.

Spencer's difficulties have been tough on his father, who was born and raised in Africa, where children with disabilities often are treated as outcasts.

Said Ihejirika, "I just have to trust God knows what He is doing with Spencer. I just need to trust. Spencer reads his Bible every morning and is always asking about heaven. He is on a totally different wavelength than any other 16-year-old."

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Daniel J. Vance is a licensed professional counselor and national certified counselor from Vernon Center, Minn. His weekly newspaper column Disabilities has been published in more than 260 newspapers.

Daniel J. Vance may be reached at

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