Against all odds

February 13, 2013, 7:15 pm
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This past week we here at Cal-Hi Sports Bay Area ran a story on Sacred Heart Cathedral boys basketball player Christian Wilburn. Christian is a sophomore on the varsity squad and has been finding the floor more as the season goes on but that's not why he's a special guy.

When Christian was just 2 years old, he was diagnosed with both Bell's Palsy and a rare form of Mono. Doctors were dumfounded at this discovery and soon found Christian had an even rarer Autoimmune Disorder which is so unheard of, to this day it still hasn't been given a name. The disorder has caused many health problems for Wilburn throughout his life as he developed serious allergies to pretty much everything. The problem with Christian's Autoimmune Disorder was since it was so rare, no doctors knew how to treat it let alone diagnose it. So the Wilburn family had a severely ill child throughout his youth and for the most part, besides taking care of his body, there was no available treatment.

During 4th through 7th grade was the worst of Christian's health scares though. During that period, Wilburn came close to death 3 different times. Doctors were still baffled as to how to get him better. Christian started to swell up and developed open red sores all over his body, some of his skin started to fall off, his migraine headaches got worse, every morning he woke up in extreme pain and at one point he missed 7 straight months of school. He was a very, very sick child. During this time, teams of doctors all over the country were working with Christian and half of them said he was bound to die soon while the other half said he would have to live the rest of his life in a plastic bubble because his allergies were so intense. The allergies might have been the worst because they were so random. For example, Wilburn would be allergic to nuts in the morning while he could eat them during the evening. In the afternoons he couldn't eat fruit, or couldn't touch wool, or any number of things while at any other point in the day he could. At one point, Christian even developed an allergy to water (which is important apparently).

The Wilburn family was at the end of their rope, until they found a reclusive doctor who was willing to do exploratory treatment with Christian. Without going into specifics, the doctor found a way to treat the disorder and in 2 weeks Christian was feeling better, and in 6 weeks he was back at school.

To hear Christian tell his stories of illness now is amazing in itself. He told me while growing up he didn't know the difference between “tired” and “pain.” When his migraines and nerve pain throughout his neck, arms and spine acted up he would say “I'm tired,” not knowing that he was actually “in pain.” Only until one day he said he was sleepy and described the weird feeling to his father who in turn said “Christian, you're tired.” As to which Christian replied “This is tired?! I can do this! This is easy!” But really, how was he to know the difference? The poor kid has been in pain pretty much his entire life.

Another pretty amazing fact in this story is that Christian's mother, Janine, was in a horrible car accident during these trying times and was partially paralyzed. Doctors said she wouldn't get better, but she did, just as Christian would years later. Now Janine's body is fully functional, just another HUGE speed bump in the Wilburn families lives.

Christian still deals with his Autoimmune Disorder but he's built up his body to fight it on a daily basis. He does intense yoga, keeps his body in tip top shape, eats well and tries not to push himself too hard because if he does, his body might betray him again and keep him bed-ridden for weeks. He still experiences his headaches, nerve pain throughout his upper body, rashes, some cognitive problems (he still earns a 4.0 GPA though) and morning pains... but he's alive! His outlook for the future is bright, more than anyone could have said about the young man just 4 years ago.

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