For most students at Walnut Grove Secondary, rushing from class to class is as easy as breathing.
For Grade 10 student Graham Koshman neither walking nor breathing comes easily.
Koshman has severe Beckers muscular dystrophy — a condition that causes his muscles to be very weak, making something as simple as putting on a T-shirt, a monumental task. Making his way through the hallways of Langley’s most populated school can be a challenge for this 15-year-old honour roll student, but he wants everyone to know he’s up for it.
This positive attitude and determination to spread awareness about muscular dystrophy has landed him some accolades lately. Firstly with being chosen as the ambassador for this Saturday’s Safeway Muscular Dystrophy Walk in Bear Creek Park in Surrey and secondly as the recipient of a Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee medal which he will receive at a dinner held in October.
At the age of six, Graham’s parents took him to his doctor after he complained of pain after every skating lesson. That led to an MRI scan that nearly cost him his life when the anesthetic caused his muscles to stop working. Rushed to Children’s Hospital after urinating blood and unable to move on his own, Koshman was seen by numerous specialists. It was a neuromuscular specialist who diagnosed him with having severe Beckers — a condition that affects one in every 3,500 to 5,000 boys.
“There are over 100 different neuromuscular diseases and I got severe Beckers, but it doesn’t feel severe to me,” said Koshman while sitting in his backyard last week.
It’s a condition that so many people know so little about.
“Not many people know about muscular dystrophy so that’s why I’m always willing to come forward to talk about it and spread awareness,” said Koshman.
Showing an amazing amount of bravery, Koshman made presentation to his classmates in Grades 4, 7 and 8, describing how muscular dystrophy affects him and how best to deal with someone with a disability.
“I let them know to be careful around me in the hallways,” he said. But really what Koshman wants is to be treated like everyone else.
“Support me but don’t patronize me,” he said. “What I mean by that is people seem to want to congratulate me on every normal task I accomplish and sometimes that makes me feel like an outcast.”
In Grade 8, Koshman was bullied very badly for walking a little slower than everyone else. It was a difficult time for his family but he said he’s learned to become his own advocate out of it. The bullying has stopped and students have matured, he said.
He belongs to the Humanitarian Club at WGSS and every second week he gives a short presentation about his goals to support muscular dystrophy research. He then passes around a jar and asks friends to donate any spare change.
“I’ve collected $220 from that,” he said proudly.
His dream is to one day organize a walk at his school in support of muscular dystrophy.
A Scout since he was five, and now a Venturer, his fellow troupmates are volunteering their time to set up at Saturday’s walk.
Already raising nearly $1,000, a large donation from a distant friend left the whole Koshman family awestruck.
In 2008, Koshman was part of the Sunshine Foundation’s DreamLift day in Disneyland that sent 82 B.C. kids on a chartered flight for one special day at the happiest place in the world. The Langley Times went along for that inspiring trip, documenting the day for readers. Koshman was buddied up with an Orange County sherrif for the day, while taking in rides and fun.
The two have stayed in touch via email since then. Koshman told him he was going to be the ambassador for the walk. After that a cheque for $500 arrived.
“That really touched us, we were just in awe,” said Graham’s mom Barb.
Koshman’s disease prevents his body from making enough dystrophin so he has no way to rebuild muscles. It makes his muscles weak and causes a lot of pain.
There is no cure yet so most of the medication he takes is to manage the pain.
He takes cup full of pills, three times a day. He also has to do a lot of stretching and swimming.
The Koshmans have seen the benefits of the Walk funds, helping them pay for a stair lift for Graham, as well as bathroom renovations.
The walk starts at 11 a.m.