By Russ Pankonin, The Imperial Republican
Young Dustin Holmes doesn’t know what awaits him. This week, Holmes, 18, headed to the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha for assessment of a debilitating disease that’s now relegated him to a wheelchair for mobility.
Dustin suffers from a genetic disease, Neurofibromatosis Type 1. The disease disturbs cell growth in the nervous system, causing tumors to form on nerve tissue. These tumors, mostly benign, may develop anywhere in the nervous system, including in the brain, spinal cord and nerves.
As the disease has progressed, Dustin has gone from being an active Special Olympics athlete in bowling and basketball to now being bound to a motorized wheelchair.
Of most concern right now are tumors that have developed on the nerves near the top of his spine. Doctors at UNMC are going to assess the best course of action, which could include surgery.
As a member of the Class of 2015, Dustin has become a symbol of pride to his classmates for his humility, positive attitude, sense of humor and faith.
With the possibility of surgery looming, Dustin could still be recovering and unable to graduate with his friends in May.
Rather than take that chance, at the request of his parents, Dustin got to enjoy a “Celebration of Achievement” Monday before leaving for Omaha.
Wearing a mortarboard and orange sash, Dustin was escorted into the Shorthorn gym by the Class of 2015. Not only was he surrounded by them, every student in Chase County Schools was in the gym to recognize him.
Add family, teachers, friends and community members and it all provided the perfect atmosphere for a celebration.
Dustin has always wanted to be a fireman and last year, he was made an honorary member. As part of the celebration Monday, members of the fire department presented him with a fleece vest and announced that this year’s Fireman of the Year was none other than Dustin Holmes.
Several of his classmates shared the impact Dustin has had on their lives. One of his friends noted he had learned far more about life because of Dustin. “Our class has a special place in our hearts” for Dustin. By then, there was hardly a dry eye in the house.
It was indeed moving to see his classmates gather around him to celebrate an important moment in his life. No matter what’s ahead for Dustin, the disease could not rob him of that. His fellow classmates were just looking out and taking care of one of their own.
That’s what we do in small-town Nebraska!!!