Eric Kaiser: "Never give up"




By Eric Kaiser, Vianney High School senior

I want to tell you a story. It is about a kid who earned everything he got, but it was taken from him early in his life. He had severe hearing loss, but he didn’t let that stop him from doing what he loved. He grew up playing baseball and later hockey. These two sports became his passion. His dad told him, “practice makes perfect.” He took that to heart, and practiced everyday because he wanted to be the best he could be when the game clock started. 

In the summer after his fifth grade year, he went with his family to Destin, Florida for vacation. They set aside a few days to go to Disney World in Orlando. While they were there, the parents began to notice the child’s vision was changing. He couldn’t see people that were right in front of him in the dark or dim light. They got back from vacation, and saw a doctor. The doctor did some test on his vision, but asked the family to do a genetic test. The parents and the child had some blood drawn, and it was sent to another doctor in Iowa. That doctor looked at the genes in the parents’ DNA and the child’s DNA. 

The results determined the child has a rare genetic disorder called Usher Syndrome. He has severe hearing loss, and an eye disorder called retinitis pigmentosa. This disorder causes the retinas in both eyes to deteriorate faster than the average human. It causes blind spots in his vision, his peripheral vision to shrink, and night blindness. When you look at this kid, he doesn’t look any different than anyone else, but he struggles a lot more than the average kid. A lot more

At first he didn’t know exactly what he thought about it because he wanted to finish his middle school time by playing baseball. Two broken arms took more of that time away from him, but he made the most of his last years on the field at second base — with his best friends alongside him playing shortstop and first base. 

The beginning of  high school was like a whole new life for this kid. He gave up baseball and hockey and became a track runner and chess player. The disorder started to take an emotional toll, but he kept it to himself. He was able to keep the anger, frustration, sadness, and depression to himself for three years. Early in his senior year, he couldn’t handle it anymore. He broke down. He missed hanging with his best friends and playing baseball in the summer. His social life was not what he wanted it to be. He barely saw his best friends now. The emotions got so bad that he would cry himself to sleep every week. He felt alone because he didn’t know anyone that was going through what he was going through. He was tired of living a life of secrecy.  

This kid is me. This is my story. This is my life. These are the things I deal with on daily basis. Yes, I have a disability. No, I’m not afraid of the dark, but I cannot see in dark or dim light. Yes, this condition is real. If it wasn’t, I would be playing baseball and roller hockey for my high school. People with disabilities are not useless. I am living proof. I am currently a senior at St. John Vianney High School and I will be attending Maryville University or Missouri State of Science and Technology next fall in pursuit of an Architectural Engineering degree. 

People with disabilities are NOT useless, but yes, they do need a little extra help with certain things. Some of the disabilities or needs may be obvious, but for those of us with invisible disabilities, it is not obvious to others. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I made it through the majority of my teenage life without people knowing what I was going through. At school, only my counselor and my teachers knew about my disability because I didn’t want all the labels that people put on disabilities. I felt like I wouldn’t have a chance to prove myself to others if those labels were already there. 

For those out there that are going through something similar to me, please know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Don’t give up on your dreams. I didn’t give up on my dream of playing hockey one more time and now I am currently playing in my first high school season of roller hockey. Nothing is impossible if you just set your mind to it. Don’t be afraid to stand up and ask for help along the way, either. Don’t give up, practice makes perfect, and good things will happen!