Health | Opinion

Column: Ojibwe man speaks out on fetal alcohol syndrome

"As a freshman at Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis, Hunter Sargent wanted to play football. The coach, worried that Sargent was too small and insufficiently focused, said no. So the team's big-hearted quarterback feigned illness and gave his uniform and helmet to Sargent.

Sargent was sacked, then threw for three touchdowns to win the game.

"Now tell me I can't play football!" Sargent told the coach.

It's been like that his whole life.

Sargent, 34, was born to a mother who drank throughout her pregnancy. He was pronounced dead three times before doctors said he would live, but in a vegetative state. When he was 5 months old, his mother left him in his crib in a soiled diaper and headed to California. "If you want your grandson," she told her mother in a phone call, "come and get him."

Grandmother Patricia Sargent lovingly raised the boy, whose Ojibwe name is "Wolf," and refused to let him be defined by his limitations. "We'll prove them wrong," she liked to say. She taught him English with help from "The Cat in the Hat." She encouraged him to make friends and stay in school. She attended all of his Individualized Education Program meetings.

Before she died when he was 12, she told him, "Don't ever be afraid of being you.""

Get the Story:
Gail Rosenblum: An inspiring triumph over fetal alcohol syndrome (The Minneapolis Star Tribune 5/26)

Join the Conversation