Southern Miss student relies on willpower to overcome disability

Published 11:46 pm Saturday, November 11, 2006

In the spring of 1985, 5-year-old Edward Duran was like any other vivacious kid — jumping at opportunities to ride his bike, go fishing and play with his collection of Transformers toy robots.

According to his parents, the Long Beach, Miss., native soaked in all that life had to offer without a care in the world. But life, as Duran knew it, would drastically change within an instant during a trip to a local park on April 19.

First came confusion. Next, weakness. Then the inability to move. Duran’s body had suddenly come under attack. The blood flow to his brain was stopped by a clot. His brain cells were being destroyed one-by-one as they could no longer retrieve the oxygen and the nutrients needed to function. Without warning, the third-leading cause of death in the United States had set its sights on a vigorous little boy who some say emanated an abundance of promise.

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“I was on a swing and I fell off and couldn’t get up. Unaware I was in trouble, a woman and her daughter just looked at me and smiled,” recalled Duran. “Unable to stand, I had to crawl over to my grandma for help. She dragged me to the car and then phoned my parents who took me to the hospital.”

Duran had suffered a stroke on the right side of his brain. His family was stunned since research shows that while strokes affect more than 700,000 people a year, the disease usually strikes people aged 65 and older.

His mother, Bonita, said that while in the hospital, Duran slipped in and out of a coma as doctors worked to determine the cause of the stroke. Tests revealed Duran had circulatory system defects called Arteriovenous Malformations (AVMs) which affect nearly 300,000 Americans and are believed to arise during embryonic or fetal development or soon after birth. Research shows AVMs are usually discovered either during an autopsy or treatment for an unrelated disorder.

While undergoing treatment for AVMs, Duran’s condition grew worse and continued to deteriorate over a period of four months until he was referred to a Dallas-based neurosurgeon who decided to operate. Duran would suffer a second stroke two days after surgery, leaving him with Hemiparesis (partial paralysis) on the right side of his body. Moyamoya, a rare brain disease, was to blame.

“I have been dealing with my disability for twenty-one years,” said Duran, who has undergone years of intense physical therapy. “I remember being teased by a boy I went to elementary school with. This hurt, but I guess he was just trying to look cool in front of his two friends,” he said. “My parents notified the principal and the teasing stopped. However, it did make me feel very different from everyone else, but I have learned since then that it is not me who has the problem. It is just the way some people react, because they do not understand disabilities. So, I have just had to keep pushing on regardless of what people think.”

Duran said Southern Miss has played a key role in bolstering his confidence both socially and academically, as he is a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and a recipient of the School of Human Performance and Recreation Outstanding Undergraduate Scholarship Award. He has also garnered the Outstanding Student Award for Academic Achievement and Community Involvement from the Office of Disability Accommodation. Duran currently serves as the community service chair for the Recreation Majors’ Association.

Southern Miss Dean of Students Dr. Eddie Holloway said Duran is “one of the most positive students that I have ever taught and worked with.”

“He is dedicated to mastering each task that he faces,” he said. “Actually, I am inspired by Eddie’s determination and commitment to task completion. He presents evidence that a positive attitude works miracles for hope, energy and service. Southern Miss is better because of Eddie’s presence.”

Along with Holloway, Duran credits Southern Miss Human Performance and Recreation professors Dr. Rick Green and Dr. Brent Wolfe for challenging him to reach his full potential.

“Dr. Green has been an encourager the moment I arrived at the university and has tried to get me involved in practical experiences. Dr. Wolfe has also pushed me really hard to be as good as I can be in the field of therapeutic recreation and has presented me with the most challenges I have faced in my college career,” said the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College transfer, who acknowledged instructor Dr. Charles Sullivan as another source of inspiration.

“The most frustrating thing about disabilities is the limitations that come with them, but instead of focusing on what I cannot do, I try to focus on what I can do,” he said. “I am really lucky. Things could be a whole lot worse. I can walk, talk and do a lot despite my disability.”

“I know that things can get really difficult for people with disabilities, and there are times when one may want to quit, but quitting only hinders the ability to grow as an individual. Instead of going this route, you must press on and become everything you were meant to be.”

To learn more about Arteriovenous Malformation and Moyamoya, visit .

For information on the Southern Miss School of Human Performance and Recreation, call 601.266.5386 or visit .