Diego Suarez loves to talk about his adventures.
There’s the time he went to the rodeo; the time he went on a radio show to promote Easter Seals Central Texas; the time he met astronaut Jose Hernandez at a public event.
“The coolest experience I’m living is right now!” he yells gleefully during his interview for this column.
That’s just how Diego is: funny, excitable and positive. But the 10-year-old 5th grader knows what it’s like to struggle. He was born with cerebral palsy. Doctors said he’d never walk, talk or eat without a tube.
Now he talks. He eats without a tube. He can slowly propel his wheelchair and use a walker.
But ask him to talk about his challenges and he doesn’t mention any of that. He says his biggest struggle is homework.
“I’d rather be sleeping,” said Diego, who attends Ortega Elementary School.
Diego was born in 2002 at 30 weeks gestation. He was 2 pounds, 4 ounces and was hospitalized for months. His cerebral palsy impairs his muscle control and doctors gave his parents the worst-case scenario.
His parents refused to accept that. They immediately got him into physical therapy, speech therapy and other treatments to strengthen his body.
“Every new accomplishment by Diego, regardless if it’s small or big, is big in my eyes because I see his determination to accomplish,” said his mother, Esmeralda Suarez.
Diego is among the 3,500 people with disabilities served by Easter Seals last year. If you think Diego looks familiar, it may be because you’ve seen his picture. The nonprofit uses him as a spokesman of sorts — last year, he was the group’s official child ambassador — so Diego’s picture is on an Easter Seals delivery truck. His photo is also on the cover of the nonprofit’s brochures.
With his big brown eyes and giant smile, Diego is a natural in front of the cameras. That’s good because one of his missions in life is to be famous. He revels in the attention Easter Seals has brought him and has no plans to fade into the background any time soon.
“I’m thinking about being a famous paleontologist,” Diego said. “I find dinosaurs fascinating.”
He’s also big into astronomy (Saturn is his favorite planet) He loves to read (“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” is his current book.) He also has a weakness for monster trucks.
Sitting in the Easter Seals office recently, he pondered his future.
“I always wonder what’s next in my life,” he says. “I don’t know.”
His mother does: he’s going home to do his homework.
“Don’t rub it in,” he yells with a smile.
That sense of humor and forceful personality tickles his mother.
“From Diego, I learned a lot,” Esmeralda says. “He is my great pride and has given me great lessons in life, love, patience and fortitude.”