Garrett, the boy beneath the bandages, graduates the 8th grade

Over the past 5 years that I have been following Garrett and his family I have witnessed some horrible moments that are the Spaulding’s reality living with Epidermolysis Bullosa. Peppered throughout that experience were mild moments that wouldn’t quite qualify as happy, simply calms between the storms of reality. I wondered if this kid would ever see a truly happy moment. To my surprise it came in the form of a cap & gown, and friends. Last week I had the opportunity to follow Garrett through his 8th grade graduation. Junior high graduations have come along way from the late 80s when I made the jump from junior high to high school. Garrett’s graduation included caps, gowns and tassels. What I found extremely interesting was how the girls and boys were separated by colored gowns. No one could explain the reasoning. Girls wore white and boys blue. This was an amazing experience for me, and everyone involved to watch Garrett don a cap and gown and graduate. Due to the disease EB, Epidermolysis Bullosa, his body has to be constantly wrapped in bandages. Warm, often times, hot Central Valley weather has this kid stripped down to bare minimum of bandages with only a pair of shorts, dripping in sweat, looking for a way to keep cool. This afternoon, though warm, was not going to keep Garrett from dressing up and looking sharp for the ceremony. Dressing up in a shirt, tie, pants, topped off with a his ceremony gown, he was sweating in no time. One truly moving and symbolic moment for me was to watch Lorraine, Garrett’s mom knot his tie and straighten his collar. She has always applied and removed his bandages, and here she was helping him get dressed look sharp for the ceremony. Even though he still cannot walk freely his girl friend Megan, also graduating, assisted him through the ceremony by pushing his wheel chair. I was later told that Megan was in some of my earlier images of when I visited Garrett in the classroom. Wow! How things change. She was always offering to push his wheel chair and help him then and now here she is doing it again. Another symbolic moment. Every time I visit Garrett I fall right back into my flow. I forget that time has passed, Garrett has grown up, things have changed in his life. The interesting thing is I don’t even notice the bandages anymore. He doesn’t notice the camera he just does his thing. Its surreal in a way. As I hung out with Garrett and his friends before the ceremony I found myself challenged. Normally, I would say that I feel invisible to him. Amongst his friends as I photographed I realized that there was only so much that I would see here. I felt only right in my gut to leave him with his friends undisturbed to share this experience with his friends privately.

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One thought on “Garrett, the boy beneath the bandages, graduates the 8th grade

  1. Hermann, okay? My name is Abdala, I am Brazilian and I wonder how this Garrett? Followed its history on TV and was very touched. Would it help if it's with my prayers. Thank you for your attention. I await answers.

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