Key to overcoming obstacles is boy's family, own attitude

When Bishop Jack Dellastatious announced in sacrament meeting two years ago that Brad Houck was in a coma after an automobile accident, many in the Rockville (Md.) Ward asked, "Why him? Hasn't Brad suffered enough?" Ward members prayed and silently wondered if he would survive.

Survive he did. This year Brad, 18, graduated from high school on schedule and with honors. But what makes this story different is that Brad also had other obstacles to overcome. He was born with a congenital foot deformity, and became deaf at age 5.A caring family has helped balance the scales. Brad's parents, Jerry and Wendy Houck, insisted on "mainstreaming" Brad into a regular classroom and have also attended and interpreted countless hours of Church meetings for their son, including four years of early-morning seminary. Brad's sister, Heidi, and brothers, Kevin and Mike, supported him as well.

Brad was born in Provo, Utah. At age 3 1/2, doctors discovered Brad's left ear was totally non-functioning. His right ear had a mild hearing loss, which deteriorated to the point that, at age 5, Brad turned to his mother at a drive-in movie and exclaimed, "Mommy, I can't hear."

When Brother Houck, a Church Educational System employee, was transferred to coordinate seminaries and institutes of religion in the Washington, D.C., area, the family moved to Maryland. Brad was the first deaf student that some of his teachers ever taught. Because of his willingness to work, many teachers nicknamed him the "Incredible Houck," a play on the title of a popular television series.

Brad made the honor roll every semester in junior high and high school. He was also heavily involved in soccer, football and wrestling.

His sophomore year, Brad made the varsity wrestling team and was rated sixth in the state pre-season. However, for Brad the 1986-1987 season was cut short when he broke his arm.

It was on March 6, 1987, while returning home from watching the state wrestling tournament, that Brad almost lost his life in the automobile accident. He was in a coma for three days. Doctors said his internal head injuries would cause mental disabilities, personality disorders and a lack of coordination.

His family fasted and prayed. Ward members and his father's colleagues joined them. Brad improved remarkably and was transferred to the Dupont Institute in Wilmington, Del., for rehabilitation. Its staff estimated that he would stay for three months. But due to hard work and a desire to return to school, Brad regained his coordination and left after only four weeks. He then made up six weeks of missed school.

In addition to sports, Brad is also involved in other activities. He was treasurer of his school's chapter of Students Against Drunk Driving and photographer and reporter for the school newspaper. He was a leader of Montgomery Exceptional Leaders, a group of students with disabilities that teaches respect for those with disabilities in schools.

"A lot of people see deafness as a handicap, but I don't," explained Brad. "It's a disability. The president of Gallaudet College in Washington D.C. (a college for the deaf) says that deaf people can do anything that anyone else can but hear. I think that's really true. It helps me to see my disability better. I realize that I've been a very fortunate person, and I have the Lord to thank for that."

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