If the Nietzsche axiom is true – that which does not kill you makes you stronger – Nick Galvin is one of the strongest kids alive. And a hero for survival.
He was five years old when the accident happened. Romping through the hallways of his house, he was merely a boy being a boy when fate twisted his life toward fatality in the split-second it took for him to trip, and watch a large, heavy statue fall and crack his head.
His father cradled his son and then rushed him to the hospital. Nick had a basal skull fracture that pummeled his pituitary gland. The odds were long for him to live through the night, let alone the week.
Nick’s parents never gave up even as their son lied still in a coma. After many, many days and much therapy, Nicky began to show glimmers of life. Always a strong-willed kid, he simply refused to die.
With his parents, a sister and a twin brother sitting vigil every minute of every day, Nick willed himself, against all odds, to live. His face was a crushed apparition, a Phantom of the Opera mash-job without the mask. His speech was garbled and twisted like a stranger in a strange land speaking awkwardly in foreign tongues.
Yet he persevered, growing stronger every day and literally starting life over from scratch, his brain rebooted where everything previously learned needed to be learned anew. Surgery after surgery helped repair the contortion of his face and endless hours of therapy helped restore the basics of natural speech to a point where audible phrases were more like ghostly moans. With his pituitary gland broken, Nick’s brain did not secrete the necessary hormones to grow naturally. Shots, pills, steroids and more meds than a MASH unit helped him grow into a normal-sized teenage boy.
But no artificial substance or army of physicians were needed to repair his heart.
Despite – or maybe because of – his disability, Nick became an inspiration to his friends, his family and to anyone whom he has ever met. He became obsessed with machinery and the process of building; putting things together from scratch became an obvious metaphor for his life. Drop the kid near a construction site and within a half hour he will know the names of everyone on the job and even pitch in to help.
He is forever putting others before himself, always offering a hand in graciousness for the gift of life that was given to him not once, but twice. The therapies continue – Nick’s dad drives his son several hours every week to speech classes and blood tests and new consultations with new doctors about new experimental treatments that can help his growth or diction improve even more. His parents, who have spent so much time and money and love on raising the boy into a young man, will forever cherish every single new day.
And even though Nick will always face challenges, he accepts every one with a genuine sense of gratitude.
This summer, Nick came to my office on multiple days to clean the bathrooms and wash cars for cash. I asked him what he was planning to buy with all the money he was making. He said he was saving for a new computer for his dad. When I asked facetiously why he wouldn’t buy something for himself he said – in his beautifully tortured tongue – “Because my Dad…has done everything for me.”
In a world where words can ignite wars, sometimes a hero with a fractured voice is best defined by his actions. And Nick’s actions will always speak louder than…