Editor's Note: These seniors were selected by their individual schools.
Hayden Leonard (Mount Pleasant High School)
Running has been a part of Hayden Leonard’s life since middle school, but he almost lost that ability while battling a neurological movement disorder.
During the first track meet last spring he started having severe muscle cramps and muscle spasms. At first the family thought it was an electrolyte issue but it only continued to get worse. Leonard went through five months of relentless cramps/spasms in both legs.
After many tests, hospital visits and numerous doctor’s appointments, he was diagnosed with partial stiff person syndrome. But the neurologist wasn’t completely convinced and made the decision to write a case study to get Leonard to the Mayo Clinic.
At the clinic he was finally diagnosed with functional neurological movement disorder which occurs when a person experiences unusual, involuntary movements or body positions. It is caused by a problem with the way signals are sent throughout the brain.
Leonard’s mother, Sara Leonard, said that her son then qualified for an intensive physical therapy program at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota but they had to wait several months for a slot to open. Finally they got a call of a cancellation and Leonard flew back out to the Mayo Clinic to receive 4-5 sessions a day.
By the end of the week, he was running again.
“He came home from the Mayo very determined to run cross country,” Sara Leonard said. “He was able to do that with the support of his teammates. His times were not the best, but he was running
Favorite moments in high school?
Being part of the Cross Country team was a big part of my high school career. I was able to qualify and run in states for 3 years and be a part of winning the conference championship for the first time in school history! After my illness being able to come back and run with my team is something I’ll never forget. Even runners from other teams were supportive of me.
How have you changed over the last four years?
Over the past four years I’ve developed leadership skills, became more social and more confident that I could tackle anything life throws my way. I learned that when life throws crazy stuff at you and doesn’t go the way you want you still can find something good in each day and be thankful for it.
What are you going to miss most?
I’m going to miss my friends and teammates and the great times we’ve had together. Even when I was in a wheelchair and unable to drive I had good friends that would pick me up and drive me so I wouldn’t miss out.
Any advice for students just starting or already here?
Try to find the fun and each day. Even when the days are hard you can find the good and make some fun.
Any plans after graduation?
I plan to attend Belmont-Abbey to study Elementary Education and run Cross Country and Track.