Teen perseveres to win
By Teen perseveres
to win scholarship
Jul 12, 2011 - 5:58 AM
Greenwich, CT - On
June 12, 2007, Ezra Grossman, Greenwich, woke up, got ready for work
and left to catch the Metro North train to Grand Central Station,
just as he had so many times before. Twice a month Grossman would
travel into the city to meet with the venture capital group he
consulted with. It had become part of his routine.
disembarked as planned and stepped onto the long escalator ascending
to the Met Life building. Toward the top, Grossman began to lose his
balance, as he often did. This was part of the routine. Grossman has
But this particular day Grossman couldn’t
recover sufficiently and tumbled backward down the escalator, his
body bounding down the sharp-metal steps all the way to the bottom.
Although he was in a great deal of pain, Grossman convinced EMT’s
that he didn’t need to go to the hospital. He went to his meeting.
He kept his routine.
Of course when he told his wife Jane
part of the story upon returning to the Greenwich
station, she immediately drove him to the doctor. After some X-rays
the doctor referred them to an orthopedic group. A specialist there
confirmed that Ezra had sustained a broken collarbone and three
cracked ribs, to go along with several cuts and a large bump on his
head. The specialist suggested that Ezra wait 10 days to see if
surgery was needed.
The next day, at a friend’s
suggestion, they saw another specialist at a satellite office for
the Hospital for Special Surgery in Greenwich. This second specialist,
after reviewing his own X-rays, said it was one of the worst breaks
that he had ever seen in his career. Ezra had five separate breaks
in his collarbone. The specialist suggested surgery, which had its
own complications due to Ezra’s MS.
However, the surgery was
performed and Ezra was essentially housebound for eight weeks. He
still has a plate and five screws in his shoulder. Ezra now conducts
his meetings over the phone.
Strong species are defined by
their ability to adapt to a changing environment. This rings true
for the Grossman family, who certainly are not strangers to
overcoming adversity or making sacrifices for one
Ezra and Jane have two daughters—Leah, 24, and
Sydny, 18. For Sydny, being sick was what she knew. She jokingly
referred to her school nurse as her best friend from elementary
school to middle school. She also struggled in the classroom from a
combination of often being absent and having what she referred to as
a “foggy mind.” Constantly adding to the frustration was the fact
that Sydny had no answer as to why.
After many rounds of
testing and numerous visits to different doctors, in December,
Sydny was officially diagnosed
with Celiac disease, which is an intolerance to gluten and
“When I found out I had celiac disease my world
crumbled,” said Sydny, a recent graduate of Greenwich
“Everything upset my stomach—and not only that, but I had sensory
disorders where certain sounds and feels would upset me and put me
off in the weirdest way. The foods I was supposed to eat didn’t feel
right in my mouth, and almost made me sick on how they felt. I
didn’t know what to eat anymore.”
But in true Grossman
fashion, Sydny refused to quit. She slowly integrated the new foods
into her diet, which now mainly consists of vegetables, and the
oddest thing happened—she started to like them; and suddenly school
wasn’t so hard anymore.
“Once I started eating differently,
it was an entire 180,” said Sydny, who adheres to a strict diet.
“Things got so much easier.”
It helps that Sydny has her
mother Jane at home, who cooks fresh and organic foods for her every
day. According to Ezra, she is the “best cook in the world. No,
“Sydny didn’t realize how sick she was until she
eliminated these foods from her diet,” said Jane, who along with
being Ezra’s primary caretaker is studying to become a holistic
health coach. “Once she got accustomed to her new diet, she was like
‘wow, I feel a lot better.’”
As if Ezra’s MS and Sydny’s
celiac disease weren’t enough for the Grossman’s to deal with, a
fire destroyed their home in July, 2006. Sydny recalled being at
sleep-away camp at the time, and the day prior she had called her
parents, begging them to let her come home. Luckily, they convinced
her to stick it out for the rest of the session and see if her
attitude changed. After the fire, Ezra and Jane drove out to the
camp with Leah, who had just returned from a study abroad program in
Spain, and broke the news
to Sydny. Their home, their pets, and almost all of their treasured
possessions, were gone.
But still, the Grossman’s would not
quit. They fought on.
Leah continued to attend college and
now works in Washington D.C. in the advocacy department
for Save the Children, helping children in need all around the
Sydny is a recent graduate of Greenwich
and even with all of the circumstances surrounding her, maintained
an A average. Beyond school she volunteered two to three hours each
weekend at her local Adopt-a-Dog clinic, is active at her Temple, and
worked as an administrative assistant at a local law office, as well
as assisting her mother Jane in caring for her father Ezra. She now
works as a hostess at a local restaurant.
Because of her
strength and perseverance, the National MS Society, Connecticut
Chapter, chose Sydny as one of this year’s recipients of a college
scholarship funded by the Hayley’s Hope and Michaela’s Miracle MS
Memorial Fund. The memorial endowment fund, started by the Petit
family in July 2007 after the tragic loss of Jennifer, Hayley, and
Michaela, continues their work, providing for the more than 6,000
Connecticut residents and their
families living with multiple sclerosis. In addition to other vital
programs, interest from the fund makes available scholarship for
college freshman who either have multiple sclerosis or have a parent
Sydny was awarded her scholarship along with nine
other outstanding students on Thursday, June 9, at the Farmington
Country Club. Severe thunderstorms pounded the area that night
scattering tree branches and creating traffic nightmares, but
naturally the Grossman’s braved the conditions and made the trip
from Greenwich to attend the reception.
Jane and Ezra beamed with pride as their daughter received her
scholarship from Dr. William Petit Jr. and Connecticut Chapter
president, Lisa Gerrol. Sydny then thanked them in front of the
audience for allowing her to be who she wants to be, demonstrating
her unique disposition.
Her high school guidance counselor
Lisa Sporre describes her as “a gentle leader.” She is both shy and
engaging. Sydny will attend American University in Washington D.C.
near her sister, and hopes to become a cultural anthropologist,
which she described as “a mix of all that I’ve learned and yet to
learn pasted together with real life experience”
lengthy insurance battles stemming from the fire and several moves,
the Grossman’s have started preparing for the next steps in their
lives. Ezra, who suspected he had MS as early as 1973 but was not
officially diagnosed until the 1990’s, now uses a cane when he
walks. He no longer ventures into the city, but continues to consult
from home with Jane there to assist him.
Because of Ezra’s
physical limitations, normal activities like going to the movies or
out to dinner present their own challenges. So the Grossman’s
continue to make adjustments until the new level becomes their new
normal. They call ahead to find out what floor the movie is on, and
if necessary, make sure they can use the elevator. They make sure
restaurants are handicap accessible in all aspects. They adapt.
They’re strong. It’s their routine.
“The abnormal aspects of
MS have become what is normal to me,” said
Sydny. “It has brought challenges and gifts and because of it I have
learned to not take anything for granted.”
More than 6,000
Connecticut residents are affected
by multiple sclerosis, a potentially debilitating disease affecting
the central nervous system. The cause is unknown and, as a result,
there is currently no cure for MS. Symptoms can include, among other
things, numbness in the limbs, difficulties with vision and speech,
stiffness, loss of mobility and, in some more sever cases, total
paralysis. The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS in
any one person cannot be predicted.
for the 2012 school year will be available online in October. For
more information on MS or for additional information on 2012
scholarship criteria, please contact the Connecticut Chapter at
860-913-2550 or visit www.ctfightsMS.org.
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