Sahand Fardi: a name heard in the pool, dojo, and field. Growing up, I was a three sport athlete in swimming, karate, and my absolute favorite: soccer. Everyone has something that gives their life meaning, whether that be music, art, nature, etc. For me, it was soccer. If I wasn’t at school, I was at soccer practice. If I wasn’t at soccer practice, I was training in my own backyard. If I wasn’t in my backyard, I was probably doing the nightly math problems my dad would give me so that I would be allowed to train in the backyard. The bottom line is soccer ruled all moments of free time that I had, and it was shaping into a lifelong career for me.
This part of the story is a little difficult to talk about because I DO NOT like talking about myself in a cocky manner, but it shows where soccer was taking me. I was consistently recognized as the league’s top goal scorer in my age group. I was big, fast, and possessed the agility of someone half my size. My physical traits and skills won me many offers from teams all across San Jose, California. Every season increased the chances of turning my dream of becoming a professional player into a reality.
The last season I ever played was spring of my 5th grade year. Now I know what you’re thinking, how could someone with a dream of going pro stop playing at such a young age? It turns out, I started living the life destined for me after my soccer era ended.
My spring season as a 5th grader was unlike any other. For some odd reason, my mind was more ready than my body, when they are usually on the same page. My body felt sluggish, tired, weak; as if I had already played a full soccer game only 5 minutes into practice. This weakness was accompanied by other symptoms, such as sharp ankle pains and migraines. Parents, friends, teammates, coaches all questioned, but I did not have the answer.
Multiple doctor visits and tests left me answerless with no diagnosis to understand what was going on, until one doctor’s visit 6 months later. This doctor saw something in me that the other doctors did not, and all she told my parents was to get me to the Emergency Room immediately.
A painful spinal tap procedure led to the diagnosis I had been searching for: Guillain Barre Syndrome. Guillain Barre Syndrome, or GBS for short, is an autoimmune disease which causes one’s immune system to attack and deteriorate the nervous system. The Emergency Room doctor mentioned that it could have come on as a side-effect of the flu vaccine, which I got in February of that same year. The doctor went on to mention the rarity for a child to get this condition: about 1 in 500,000 people who get the flu vaccine. The last thing the doctor mentioned was how lucky I was to be alive, as the GBS was just hours away from hitting my diaphragm and suffocating me.
I spent 5 days in the hospital receiving a generic treatment that prevented my condition from worsening, because there is no specific cure for GBS. I was weak and tired, but my spirits were high and I was happy to finally have an answer. Deep down, I was concerned about what all this meant for my soccer career. After about a month of being discharged from the hospital, I had a relapse of GBS. This time, I became paralyzed.
The point of this story is to teach you about hope and perseverance, not what I went through. Numerous doctors told me that I would never be able to walk again. With years of gruelling physical therapy, I was able to take my first couple steps, and eventually graduate to where I am today: walking freely with a pair of leg braces. It is true that I never played another second of soccer, but I did so many other things that nobody thought would be possible, like suiting up for half a season of Varsity football during my senior year of high school, and getting accepted into my dream university. I learned to appreciate the things we take advantage of as capable humans. I never knew the value of walking until I had lost it. I didn’t fully appreciate life until I was on the brink of losing it. Life is a chain in that someone above you has what you want, but there is also someone below you that wants what you have. I’m not saying this to scare you. I’m saying this to urge you to appreciate what you have, and not dwell on what you don’t.
If you are going through something, know that you were chosen because you are the most capable to overcome it. I’m not a religious person, but the quote “God gives his toughest battles to his toughest soldiers” resonated with me throughout my journey. Believing in yourself is the greatest motivation you could ever have. Trust your abilities and realize that you were chosen because YOU are the strongest. If you adopt this mindset, I promise you will be unstoppable.
Where am I now? I am about to graduate from my dream school, UCLA, with a degree in Neuroscience. I run an Instagram page called For Your Tomorrow (@foryourtomorrow_official) focused on providing quick daily tips to help people not only appreciate life, but also to help build the best versions of themselves. After graduation, my goal is to continue pursuing a career as a doctor to help kids be kids, and to not experience the hardships that I experienced.
If you have gotten to this point, know that I wholeheartedly believe in you. I know you are capable of accomplishing all that you desire. Believe in yourself. Never give up. Prove everyone wrong. Go get what’s yours.
- Sahand Fardi