Contributed by Abby Lampley
Seven years ago, I became a member of the Hemispherectomy Foundation. The Hemispherectomy Foundation is made up of a group of people who have either had the hemispherectomy surgery (removal of part of the brain) or people who are looking at this surgery as a way to save their children from rare brain disorders. Almost 15 years ago, I became one of those people who had to have this surgery done to stop the progression of a rare brain disorder.
Every summer, dozens of families come together at a designated place for the International Hemispherectomy Conference/Reunion to learn news ways to help their children & to enjoy the fellowship of others who get what it is like to be going through the issues that come after the hemispherectomy surgery.
Last summer, I was asked to fly to Baltimore from Alaska to speak on the young adult panel & to share the things that I've been through because a lot of the families in the foundation look up to me. I was so honored to take what I've learned & use it to help others like me. I told myself that I was going to every conference from now on because it is a gift to spread hope to everyone & I really benefit from being around other hemispherectomy survivors.
This summer, the conference took place in Colorado & I was asked if I would give a speech about how I have overcome having half my brain removed. Since the Baltimore conference, I have moved out on my own, gotten a job & have had to learn to do the everyday tasks of adulthood, such as cooking, budgeting my paychecks & figuring out my transportation.
In the foundation, no parent ever really knows what their kids are capable of because every case is different. There's always the question of whether their child will ever be well enough to live on their own & be a regular member of society. I am living on my own though & it is very special to share that with these families. I am able to give the parents hope for their children & inspire the kids to work hard to achieve their dreams. During the conference, I told everyone that I spoke with that you can do anything that you put half your mind to.
My favorite part of the conference wasn't sharing my testimony though. It was hanging out with all the families. A few people actually nicknamed me “Butterfly” because I would flit around talking to everyone. I was never in one place for long because I wanted to make sure that I spoke with each family at least once. Sitting by the pool with the parents, hanging out in the lobby with the other young adults, swimming with the kids, dancing with a very sweet guy... Those were my favorite parts of the conference. Those are memories that will stick in my head forever & will tide me over until the next conference where I will make more memories with my friends who are like family.
I don't know where I'll be living or what I'll be doing a year from now, but I look forward to the 2017 Hemispherectomy Conference/Reunion. Until then, I will keep in touch with the families I know, connect with new families online & continue to set an example for the kids like me.