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The photograph, which is about five years old, sits in the front pocket of my purse. It is a school picture of a little boy, smiling at the camera with a cheeky grin. You can't help but melt at the sight.
He has dirty blonde hair, saturated with nearly a full tub of hair gel, trying to tame the defiant cowlick which stands up prominently, drawing your attention to it almost immediately. His eyebrows, so fair, are practically non-existent and his contrasting dark eyelashes, which I envy, frame his almost sickeningly blue eyes and bring to mind a perfect spring sky. A constellation of freckles adorns his cute button nose, right above the adorable dimples at either side of his boyish, yet affectionate smile.
Overall, he gives off the image of your stereotypical boy-next-door-in-training. The picture-perfect boy in this photograph is my little brother Harris.
When you look at this photograph, all you see is a perfectly average little boy posing for his school pictures. Harris is very far from being average.
Harris was born on the 2nd of January 2008. During the pregnancy, we knew that there would be some problems during labor but we didn’t imagine they would be as severe as they were.
When Harris was born, the doctors quickly realised he had a rare condition called exomphalos, a type of abdominal wall defect which meant that his intestines and gallbladder were outside his stomach. Whilst the doctors managed to save his intestines, his gallbladder wasn’t so lucky. This is an extremely rare condition, affecting around two in every 5,000 children each year.
Harris also suffered from a congenital birth defect called Amniotic Band Syndrome — or ABS for short. This led to a lack of development in his right hand and ankle in the womb, stopping the blood flow and growth, leaving them both extremely underdeveloped.
Harris got his first operation when he was just three hours old, to fix his exomphalos and release the bands to see if his hand and foot would get any better. Sadly, after three days, the doctors decided to amputate his foot due to it making no progress.
I was only six years old when all of this happened, so I didn’t fully understand why my new baby brother had to stay in the hospital for so long. All I wanted was to play with him.
One of my only memories of Harris being born was the night I went up to visit him in his ward. My Gran took me up to see him and I remember being very excited to meet my new best friend. I couldn’t wait to hold him and give him the biggest hug ever! However, much to my disappointment, the nurse said I wasn’t allowed to hold him as he was so small and sick. I immediately starting bawling my eyes out because I couldn’t hold little Harris.
Eventually, the nurse gave in and let me have my way. As soon as I looked at the tiny little baby sleeping peacefully in my arms, I knew that this was far better than any Baby-Alive doll Santa had brought me. In my eyes, he was absolutely perfect in his own little way. From now on it would be my little brother and I. Ailey and Harris. I couldn’t have been happier.
Living with Harris is something I take for granted quite often. It's not until I am talking about my brother to other people when I realise that I am very lucky to have a brother like him. Harris breaks all stereotypes thrown at him and amazes everyone around him without even trying. Although Harris’s disability is extremely interesting and people are often very understanding, I absolutely cannot allow it to define Harris.
Harris loves all things sport. He plays football with his team three times a week and then likes to go to skiing on a Monday with a charity called Finding Your Feet. He is intelligent, he loves maths, counting money, adding, and subtracting. He hates English, doesn’t like reading and often gets bored of it. He is kind, doesn’t leave anyone out, and is very popular in school. Harris is immensely caring and is always there for me when I am upset and in need of company. He is funny, always giving impressions of celebrities and different accents that would leave my mum, dad, and I in stitches. He is a Capricorn. That makes him determined, ambitious, practical, and helpful. He can almost recite Home Alone 1 and 2 perfectly and watches it almost every day starting December 1st.
The point I’m trying to get across is that Harris is his own individual self with thoughts, feelings, and opinions. Sometimes people forget this and find it acceptable to stare or point when they notice his leg. Not only does this affect Harris by getting him embarrassed, but also my mum, dad and me. It's very frustrating to have to sit back and watch people blatantly point and stare at my brother, the frustration increases when I see his cheeks go red and his eyes glassy. I always wonder how people can be so ignorant when they see this little boy running around, as if he won't be utterly humiliated when they laugh and draw attention to him in front of everyone.
Although I probably don't tell Harris enough, I am extremely proud of him and his accomplishments so far. He never fails to amaze me every single day of my life and constantly pushes himself beyond his limits and back. I am so grateful to have been blessed with Harris as my brother and to have the privilege of watching him grow up throughout his life. He inspires me to live every day as the best version of myself that I can be — just like him. As his tenth birthday comes around the corner, I am excited to see him grow more as a person, an individual.