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College: United State Naval Academy
Rare disease connection: As a youngster from second through fifth grades, Ferguson suffered from a rare neurological disorder known as Guillain-Barre Syndrome. The rare disease took away his ability to walk – Ferguson relied on a walker for a year – and also affected his memory. Guillain-Barre Syndrome nearly took his life.
His Story: It was supposed to be a textbook childhood.
Navy’s Chris Ferguson was a typical 8-year-old – active and full of life. But super active doesn’t always mean super attentive.
It was not overly surprising for the 8-year-old to be late to the breakfast table. The problem was Chris says, he wasn’t able to walk, or move for that matter, out of his bed one morning. It all happened that quickly.
“My dad was very calm,” Chris recalls. “But I know they were worried.”
Ferguson’s parents rushed him to the hospital. Test after test was run but no one could figure out what was wrong. Chris says his parents were basically told he might die, but the doctors couldn’t figure out why.
A specialist from New York flew to the North Carolina hospital where Ferguson was admitted to help with the diagnosis.
He determined Chris suffered from Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare disorder in which the immune system attacks the nervous system. Guillain-Barré syndrome is very rare, affecting only 1 or 2 people per 100,000.
There is no cure and in Chris’ case, like most cases, the treatment wasn’t easy. Chris’ blood had to be separated from the plasma and then both the blood cells and plasma would be returned to the body. Recovery was grueling.
“I had to re-learn everything,” Ferguson says. “I had to learn how to talk again and had to learn basic motor skills.”
It took more than a year for that to happen. For two years, he had to use either a walker or wheelchair. But Ferguson was determined to get back to being a typical kid. That meant, for him, getting back to sports.
For Ferguson that meant playing basketball and football.
To see where Chris has come is remarkable. He went from not knowing if he would walk again or even live past the age of 8 to now playing safety for the Navy Midshipmen. His story is truly inspiring.
“I’m so blessed to have this opportunity,” Chris said. “I’m thankful for every day.”
Chris says he’s matured a lot since joining the Academy and it’s his past that has helped him keep perspective about the future.
He often shares his story of resilience with his teammates and others.
Ferguson does have some lingering reminders of those rough couple of years. He can’t get a flu shot and he has to be careful about medications he may take. But that’s OK, he says. He’s no worse for the wear.
“I will always keep pushing forward and stay positive and that’s what I tell others,” Ferguson said.
It’s the perfect attitude of someone who is willing and able to serve his country. After Ferguson fulfills his duties on the field, he’s planning a career in either the Navy or Marine Corps.