Wednesday, June 06, 2001

Beating odds


He's a walking inspiration

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        Nick Chiricosta loves to prove some people wrong while inspiring others.

        When he was 10 days old, doctors said he would not live to see his first birthday.

        Nick turned 19 in March.

Chiricosta
Chiricosta
        He came into this world with the odds stacked against him. At his birth, a painkiller was incorrectly given to his mother. Two hours old, Nick went into full cardiac arrest and respiratory failure. The drug kept oxygen from his brain.

        Doctors said — if he lived — he would be severely mentally retarded.

        Nick graduated from Turpin High School Sunday with a 3.85 grade point average.

        He earned straight A's as a junior. He repeated that feat during his final semester as a senior.

        Nick told me of his accomplishments and smiled. We sat and talked in the living room of the Anderson Township home he shares with his parents, Bob and Julaine Chiricosta.

        “Kids in school kid me and say I'm a nerd,” he said.

        “I don't mind. I just laugh and tell them:

        “When you go to school, you're there to work. Fool around at home. But at school, you work.”

        He doesn't want anyone calling him a nerd, or tagging him with any other label that sets him apart.

        “I'm just an ordinary guy,” he said, “trying to fit in the best he can.”

        Trouble is, Nick isn't ordinary. He's extraordinary. He's climbed a mountain range of adversity.

        His problems at birth permanently weakened his right side and partially paralyzed his diaphragm. His gait is slowed, his breath and his sentences shortened.

        To help him walk, he's received physical therapy every week since he was 14 days old. He endured two painful series of operations on his feet, legs and hips.

        At home, he gets around, as he says, “just fine.”

        When he goes to school or to his summer job as an usher at the Eastgate Showcase Cinemas, he uses a walker.

        “I just need it for a tiny bit of support,” he insists.

        In Nick's mind, he's not disabled or handicapped.

        “Others have harder times,” he said. “I have a better life than most.”

        He intends for his life to be even better. First, he plans to lose weight.

        “Too much stomach,” he said, patting his middle. “Need to get rid of that. Then maybe girls will look at me differently.

        “Maybe then they'll see me as I really am.”

        Even though he's packing extra pounds, the real Nick shows through. He's a man of courage and dedication.

        Bound for college in the fall, he's going to Cincinnati State to pursue a dream.

        “I've always wanted to own my own company,” he said. “I want to be my own boss someday and work with my dad.”

        He knows what he will do with his profits: Share them with his parents, his two sisters, Lisa and Jenny, their husbands, Chris and Jerry, and his high school tutors, Kathy Bertoli and Tom McOwen.

        “I owe my whole life to these people,” Nick said.

        “I have an obligation to pay them back.

        “They are why I tell myself I can overcome anything.”

        Their love and encouragement gave Nick the courage to keep trying. His efforts give hope to anyone following a dream.

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.
       

       



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