I began to watch Star Trek when I was only 6. I was too young to realize the profound impact it had on my life. I never have given up in my life. Gene Roddenberry once said, “A man either lives life as it happens to him, meets it head-on, or licks it, or he turns his back on it and starts to wither away.” I was born with cerebral palsy and have always faced challenges. When I started my business, Palmtree Enterprises -- which advocates for those with disabilities -- people said that it wasn’t feasible. But I started it anyway. When business wasn’t doing well, I asked the same people for some assistance. They said no because they were aware I was going to need money for assistive technology in order to obtain a side job. I knew it would take time to get my business going again. They felt that I should forget it. I rather compared this to how many times Kirk and crew save the universe. The odds always were against them, especially Kirk, but he and the crew always found a way.
The original Star Trek series was cancelled in 1969. It became syndicated in the 1970’s. I was living with my grandma at the time. She didn’t want my body turn into a giant ball all curved up. So she had my doctor perform a series of tendon releases on my knees and hips. There were 17 surgeries that I underwent for this procedure. So, I was in the Children’s Hospital a lot. I was poked, blood drawn and felt like I had no escape. Everybody thought I was "retarded" because I couldn’t speak. My grandmother and my Alphabet Board were the only forms of communication I could use. In a hospital they like to move things, and my Alphabet Board seemed to always be out of my reach.
But one thing helped me through.
A local TV station was running Star Trek reruns every night. It provided me an escape. When I wasn’t in the hospital for tendon release, I was dealing with something more serious. When I was eight, I had what everybody thought was the flu. It was weird. I was throwing up every hour on the hour. After two weeks, I was not getting any better. I was dying. You could see my ribs. My grandma took me to my family doctor, but he didn’t know what it was. We went to the ER at Children; the ER doctor had no clue. Then another doctor was walking by. She said, “I know what it is. He is a Neurological Vomiter. We need to start an IV for 24 hours and he’ll be fine.” Starting an IV was rough. I used to wish the Enterprise would beam me up and warp to a planet that could fix me.
My other passion is attending Star Trek conventions and being a Trekkie. I was at a convention in Seattle two years ago, and was approached by a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine cast member. She was very interested in my ECO2 communication device, which allows me to communicate, dream and connect. To this day that chance encounter brought a friendship that I couldn’t begin to explain the impact of. It's with Chase Masterson. Chase and I have stayed in touch through emails and conventions. She has truly become an endearing friend whom I cherish and value. She looks beyond any disability and sees the real person. There are not a lot of people out in this universe that can do that.
Maybe that’s why I believe so much in Star Trek, because Star Trek -- in its science-fiction stories and the characters, and in the reality of some of the actors who bring those characters to life -- is always looking out into the unknown universe, where life is merited on abilities and not differences.