A New Taipei City (新北市) student is one of the recipients of this year’s Presidential Education Award in recognition of his determination in overcoming physical disabilities to achieve academic honors.
Tsai An-che (蔡安哲), a 15-year-old at the Bali Junior High School, has muscular dystrophy and sleep apnea.
As he began sixth grade, Tsai needed to wear a respirator 24 hours a day and use a wheelchair because he could no longer walk unassisted.
Despite his problems, Tsai is optimistic and works hard at school. He recently took first place in his grade at school.
“God has given me a frail body, but he gave plenty of love for my family,” Tsai said.
Tsai said that when he was younger, he had no idea of the physical challenges he would face, “but it was very difficult to sleep at night. In class, I would fall asleep and I had a bad temper. I could get angry easily over little things.”
Seeing that his son was quite uncoordinated at sports, Tsai Kuo-chen (蔡國臣) took him for a medical examination, where he was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy and sleep apnea.
Tsai Kuo-chen said his son was able to walk when he was younger, but his muscles and motor functions deteriorated as the years went by.
The teen now has to wear a pressurized respirator with a face mask to pump air into his lungs to help him breathe.
“Doctors could not determine the cause and did not know what conditions would develop in the future. Gradually, it got worse and my son did not even have the strength to go to the washroom,” Tsai Kuo-chen said.
“Now he needs assistance for his daily living activities. All we can do is try to stop his condition from deteriorating through medication and physiotherapy,” Tsai Kuo-chen added.
Tsai An-che said that he used to ask himself: “What bad deeds have I done in a previous life to cause this? Why me?”
His parents are both elementary-school teachers and have helped him to see things from a different perspective. Tsai An-che said he later learned to make adjustments and changed his way of thinking.
He said he now often reminds himself “to see what I have and not take account of what I don’t have.”
“Nobody would want to have this kind of physical condition, but I have it, so I have to face up to it and accept it,” he said.
He dreams of becoming a writer, writing a science-fiction novel, publishing his works on the Internet and becoming a master of online computer games.
Tai We-chih (戴維志), Bali Junior High School’s director of general affairs, said Tsai An-che is considerate of other people and does not like to bother others.
“Once, the school nominated him to enter an English essay competition. However, he gave up the nomination because he did not want to take time away from his family on the weekend,” Tai said.
School principal Chen Hsiu-piao (陳秀標) said although Tsai An-che has to deal with physical disabilities, “he is not afraid of the illnesses afflicting his body. He has the courage to pursue his dreams. Besides achieving top academic honors, he can also play the violin and piano.”
“Despite his condition, Tsai faces life with an active, open mind and with optimism. He is a good example for all students, teaching them valuable life lessons,” Chen said.