A year ago, Scott Benz, a student at Anoka High School (AHS), was preparing to compete as a member of the school’s cross country team.
While that might not sound out of the ordinary, it’s amazing. So amazing that Benz was named one of the “40 Amazing Teens of 2011” by the Huffington Post, an internet newspaper.
While playing broomball in 2010, Benz fell and hit his head. This set off a chain of events in which Benz and his family discovered he had a serious health issue. Before all was said and done, Benz suffered four ischemic strokes over a five-month period. Each time Benz had to relearn how to walk independently and write and perform functions with his non-dominant hand. That he was competing as a cross country runner in the fall of 2011 was truly amazing.
The Huffington Post wasn’t the only organization to honor Benz for what he accomplished. Last year, Benz received the “2011 Inspiration Award” from the Sister Kinney Rehabilitation Institute where Benz had gone through physical and occupational therapy. The award is presented to someone who is an inspiration to their fellow patients, families, caregivers and to all who hear their stories.
Benz was honored for going through his therapy with grace and an amazing attitude. His physical therapist, Barbara Katzenstein of Kenny Kids, said they used Benz “frequently as an example of how far you can go if you work hard and have a positive attitude.”
In an interview last fall, Benz said he was not able to attend school full-time during the fall of 2010, so his family worked with the district’s Homebound Services and Benz took a class online. The second semester, Benz was at school halftime. By the third semester, he was at school full time. Benz said AHS was supportive and helpful in his recovery.
“The school has been very supportive and the staff were awesome in getting me back into school fulltime,” Benz said last fall. “I am one of a very few students who knows their counselor’s name. Mine is Amy Gardner and I consider her a friend.”
As the 2012 cross country season gets underway, Benz, now a junior, said he’s recovered fully from his “medical adventure.”
“I’m not the fastest person on the cross country team and I have trouble with my left leg so my stride is different, but it’s nothing major,” he said.
Benz’s experience has made him a stronger person. If he is going through something difficult, he compares it to learning to walk and write again four times, and realizes compared to that, anything else is easy.
“I can pretty much do what needs to be done if I put my mind to it,” Benz said.