“The doctors thought I was going to die… but I didn’t… I am a fighter” and that he is… A fighting spirit has always been in Tom Geraci’s heart. Now 14-years-old, this outgoing, inquisitive teen, who complains about having too little homework, has beaten all odds to become who he is today.
“The doctors thought I was going to die… but I didn’t… I am a fighter”
Born four months premature and weighing 1 pound 5 ounces, and 11 inches tall, Tom immediately faced tough odds. His organs weren’t fully developed, he could not breathe on his own and his retinas were not fused leaving him legally blind. He had many life-threatening surgeries but after spending 119 days in the NICU, against all odds, Tom went home to his family, breathing on his own and without the need for any medication.
Committed to finding the right services and support Tom needed to pave a strong future ahead, his parents, Cristin and John, found exactly what Tom needed to continue his growth at Franciscan Children’s. Early on, our physical therapists used Tom’s interest in geography as a way to motivate him by transforming the therapy pool into a globe and having him “travel” across the world to build and fine tune his muscle strength. He also worked with occupational therapists to learn the fine motor skills required to tie his shoes, button his coat and unzip the Ziploc bags that held his precious school snacks.
Tom was very advanced in many areas and began to develop very unique interests and skills. He was able to spell large words very early on and would remember even the smallest details that many of us overlook such as the license plate number of the car parked next to theirs in a parking lot. Although Tom was excelling in certain areas, his parents recognized areas where his cognitive development seemed to differ from that of other kids his age.
For a long time, Tom felt that his autism defined who he was…
Tom was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, meaning he has difficulties with social interaction and communicating with others, among other things. Because of his high-functioning behaviors, his diagnosis most closely relates to Asperger syndrome.
For a long time, Tom felt that his autism defined who he was and he began to lose sight of his identity outside of his diagnosis. Tom began to feel the pressure of his social skill deficits and was constantly feeling anxious about not knowing how people would react to him.
Once again, the Geraci family turned to Franciscan Children’s where Tom learned the tools and techniques he needed to cope with his anxiety by focusing on his strengths and interests. Through a lot of hard work in our Community Based Acute Treatment (CBAT) program and with outpatient mental health therapy, combined with changes to his surroundings, Tom no longer defines himself as someone with autism. He now sees himself as a homework loving, singer, songwriter, music enthusiast who happens to have autism.
Tom has big plans for the future and will happily share them with anyone who asks and with the support of Tom’s family and his family at Franciscan Children’s, we know he will reach his fullest potential and life his best life. Once you hear him belt out the chorus to “Eye of the Tiger” you’ll know he won’t stop fighting until he gets exactly what he wants.
Click HERE to learn more about Tom, and how he finds his strength, his confidence and himself in music.
Want to share your story? Send it our way to firstname.lastname@example.org.Explore All Stories