At the age of 15, Tharon Drake was just your average kid. He went to school, he swam competitively, he had good friends and a supportive family. But one day in 2008 changed his life forever.
Not Quite Right
After a swim meet in early 2008, Theron began to notice his vision wasn’t quite what it usually was. Both he and his dad, Shawn Drake, believed it was exhaustion from the race and decided to sleep it off.
But the next morning, something was definitely not right. Tharon’s vision has gone from perfect, to slightly off, to only having the ability to see a few feet in front of him in less than a day. They knew they needed to seek out a doctor.
A few months prior to losing his vision, Tharon had been seeing a doctor about his experiences with amnesia and hemiplegic migraines. The latter of which causing pain so excruciating, it can radiate to other parts of the body.
The doctors believed that the amnesia came from methylation (a rare disorder of the body’s natural gene expression), but there was still no explanation as to why Tharon was going blind. There were many guesses, some even suggesting a fast acting viral attack.
Doctor’s decided to try to build up Tharon’s immune system to try to get rid of the amnesia and migraines and hopefully restore his vision. But over the next few weeks, the migraines and amnesia disappeared, like the doctors had wanted, but his vision didn’t get any better. In fact, by June of 2008, Tharon Drake was completely blind with no perception of light.
Night to Day
In the course of 5 months, Tharon Drake had gone from having perfect vision to having none at all. But he doesn’t let his lack of sight get in his way. While he was in high school, Tharon remained on his swimming team, after having to relearn how to swim. Now, he swims in a para-swimming league, called S11, meaning “a complete or nearly complete loss of sight”.
Tharon swims with the help of a “tapper”, someone who uses a pole to tap the heads of vision impaired swimmers so that they know when to do their flip turn. S11 also requires all swimmers to wear blackout goggles so that everyone has the same field of vision. To guide themselves down their lane, swimmers brush up against the lane dividers.
Tharon’s dad is surprised and proud of how far Tharon has come since losing his vision. He says that he’s even a better swimmer now than he was when he had sight. And it’s true, Tharon’s times for all of his strokes have improved.
Today, Tharon Drake is 22 years old and is having the time of his life in and out of the pool. He has become a national record holder in 12 different swimming events for his class. He is number two in the world in the 100-meter breaststroke.
Now, Tharon has the 2016 Rio Paralympic games to work towards. He will compete against international swimmers to gain a place, since their qualifying rounds are based internationally rather than national.
Tharon also learned Braille, the writing language made for the blind. He keeps himself busy outside of the water by reading books to children at a local school for the blind. He also has learned to play 10 instruments and he is a motivational speaker, preaching about how through hard times one can still achieve their dreams. That even if you can’t see those dreams, they are still there. He has also recently proposed to his long time girlfriend.
You can keep up with Tharon Drake on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
You can read the full article on CNN.com.
Credit to CNN.
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