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October 27th, 2015

A Miracle Comes to Linux

His name is Morgan, but it hasn’t always been his name. What it was before doesn’t legally matter any longer. What does matter, to us, is the concentric circles by which “Morgan” arrived…came to be. Morgan doesn’t know any better. Many metaphors of consciousness can be applied, but for Morgan, your arguments on his condition fall outside of his realm of concern. Morgan is Morgan, and what Morgan does in the present is all that matters. What might have been his reality, to you, before “the incident,” is simply pabulum to Morgan. To Morgan, you are children trying to complete a puzzle with missing key pieces. You amuse him.

mind

The peninsula of Michigan is beautiful in the autumn. A season all too short and a season to be embraced before the reality of a brutal winter arrives — a deadly prolonged kiss of death from the north that sucks the life from everything within her reach.

David was giving his kid brother, Anthony, one more motorcycle ride before the 1968 Triumph Bonneville was put up for the winter. David bought the motorcycle in a government auction with the major components packed in cosmoline for long-term storage. It was the love of David’s life. After the ride, the oil would be removed from the crank case, the gasoline drained and cleared from the fuel lines and then the center kickstand deployed to insure no tire contact with the cement floor for the next four months.

It was the one more ride Anthony loved. It had become a tradition for the two brothers. A tradition brutally ripped from them in one breath-crushing moment.

The prognosis wasn’t good. The damage done to Anthony’s body should have been punishment enough, but it was only the container within which the real problem was cradled. He had suffered severe head and brain trauma. Surgery was immediate; surgery that relieved deadly pressure from his skull. And while the diagnosis might be important to some, suffice it to say that Anthony was placed into a coma, so as to protect his brain from the swelling that was sure to increase. With other surgeries rebuilding his facial structure, his spine and putting back together two legs and one arm and shoulder completed, Anthony was left within himself to heal as best he could.

Unfortunately Anthony never did recover. He was lost to his family forever. Anthony was replaced with Morgan.

Now, there will be a ton of medical and physical mumbo jumbo involved in this boy’s case. His case will be documented in ream after ream of paper. Gigabytes of data will shared between medical and psychological doctors with his case studies. His condition is professionally referred to as “Savant Syndrome.” While the majority of people diagnosed with this condition are born into it, a small portion of these people acquire it through injury or illness affecting the brain. Such is the case with Morgan.

SchematicWhen Anthony was awakened from his coma, he was understandably disoriented. He immediately became wary of anyone entering his room and even his parents and siblings were not allowed in. When someone came in his room, “Morgan” would fly into a rage…a rage that would create havoc with the various tubes, electrodes and other medical devices hooked into him to insure his stability.

The boy immediately bonded with Bianca, the lady who was assigned to clean his room. She became his touchstone…his viaduct into making sense of his world and his condition. She was not allowed to leave and as their relationship evolved, it was she who conferred with Morgan and vetted the people who were to enter his room.

No one was allowed entrance into Morgan’s presence without Bianca’s counsel. When she explained that she could only be there for a certain amount of hours a day, they began compiling a list of doctors, nurses and family members who could come before Morgan in her absence to treat him or speak with him. Doctors immediately had cameras placed in the boy’s room in order to observe him. They watched the closeness of the relationship between Morgan and Bianca grow. Morgan truly trusted her, but the observers had to make sure a Spanish speaking person was translating the dialog between the two. They were speaking in Spanish.

Anthony, or Morgan, had never spoken a word of Spanish in the fifteen years his life.

On the third day of his awakening, the boy asked for graph paper and regular drawing paper. He immediately began drawing the schematics of every electrical device in his room. The drawings were given to Bianca who in turn gave them to the doctors and psychologists treating him. Some of those drawings have been submitted to the school of mechanical engineering at Texas A&M. The professors there were astounded when they found out that those drawings and schematics were drawn without the machines being opened for inspection.

Morgan is now home, living with his family, but only after Bianca assured him that they were indeed his family. Morgan not only understood what happened to him, he’s now professionally able to understand his condition and will consult with his doctors. These are not treatment or examination appointments. They are consultations between peers who look after Morgan.

Unfortunately, the constant stress of Anthony’s injury and treatment were more than the marriage between his parents could take. The bills piled up and while Morgan offered to find work as a consultant for any of a number of professions, that only added to the angst between his parents. They divorced in 2010 and the court gave Morgan a lot of latitude in designing custody and visitation rights. When the court was deciding on how best to see after Morgan’s continued education, he rolled his wheelchair up to the bench without invitation and looked the judge square in the eyes.

“Education? Really? I could teach any course in any college in the United States. You cannot be serious about this can you?” The room erupted into laughter that lasted well over two minutes. The judge allowed it. And just so you know, Morgan is in touch with professors of bioengineering at MIT. He wants to help create the device that will once again allow him to stand and walk.

Morgan’s brother David entered graduate school this year, and while his scholarships were helpful, he did not have the money to afford a computer. This is where Reglue entered the picture, and through many discussions between Morgan and David, I was finally allowed into the apartment to present David with his Samsung quad core laptop. Morgan will be in a wheelchair and leg braces for the rest of his life. That did not stop him from a rapid-fire ten minute question and answer period between us, an exchange in which Morgan found me “legitimate” and “useful” for his older brother.

Morgan’s parents will not allow any personal identification to go forth in the legal or scientific community until Morgan is considered an adult. At that time, he can allow various communities and professionals to make his case public, or not. Morgan is strict about allowing access to him. Bianca and Morgan remain close friends to this day. And no…I did not have to help David at all with the use of his new Linux computer. His brother will be looking into becoming a kernel maintainer as soon as he finishes “looking the whole Linux thing over.”

He started doing so last Friday. As I understand it, Linus can expect an email from Morgan any day now.

**********

Reglue needs a new delivery vehicle in order to continue its mission to deliver computers to school children who can’t afford them. You can help by visiting its Indiegogo page.

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Ken Starks writes and publishes The Blog of Helios, a finalist in our Best FOSS or Linux Blog competition. In addition, he's the person behind the Reglue project, which refurbishes older computers and gives them to disadvantaged school kids in the Austin, Texas area. Follow him on Twitter @Reglue

14 comments to A Miracle Comes to Linux

  • Uncle Ed

    My wife works with children who have very special needs. Some of them have been in accidents or had illnesses that left them so. Some are limited, having roughly the capabilities in most ways similar to a very small child. Some others seem fairly “normal” in conversation, but have no concept of some common life matters–e.g., that things that are similar (a bag of marbles) can be counted. What is counting? What are numbers? The example often given is explaining shades of pink to a person who has never had vision. The child wears a left shoe and a right shoe, not two shoes.

    Unfortunately, it is quite common that the stresses of living with such a person have terrible effects on the family,as it did with Morgan’s family. Compounding this problem, the economics of caring for the limited person may mean that other family members don’t get their needs met in healthy ways. Sometimes there are social agencies that have the ability to help, sometimes they can only help part of the situation, and sometimes there is no help. Bad things happen. My wife comes home and tells me about her day and I know what she says is true–a normal mind just can’t make up this sort of stuff.

    I’m glad this young man has the resources around him and we will hope he can progress and live meaningfully. It’s good Reglue was able to help with this and we can anticipate that we–all of us–will help again.

  • I found the writing style of this article to be overly difficult but not impossible to follow… as it was written more as a story with flowery words and phrases, than a logical enumeration of the details. I was starting to wonder if it was a fictional short story.

  • Were you really wondering if this is a fictional story?
    How could it be?
    Computers are interfaced with human brains all the time these days.

    And now…back to the year 2015.

    Yes, it’s fictional.

  • Somewhat Reticent

    Savant syndrome seems miraculous, but it’s very real.

  • Maher

    Now im confused after reading the comments. Is this real or fiction? The writing style made me think its just a story

  • Antonio Fiorentino

    A bit frustrating because the writer makes no reference to anything in reality. We dont expect Morgan”s home address but some referent is due in any paper by anyon who wishes to be read again.

  • tracyanne

    Definitely reads and feels like fiction. This is not one of your better articles Ken.

  • Urko Masse

    To each their own, I guess, but I loved the article. And I believe it is a true story.
    Keep up the great work, Reglue!
    Heading over to Indiegogo right now.

  • Chris

    The entire time I kept wondering what this had to do with Linux. How is it someone with autism (caused by anything) a miracle to Linux in any way? Isn’t that a prerequisite? To have some sort of antisocial autistic overly prideful self worth? The story if true could have been written so much better. Child wakes up from coma and enjoys using Linux. A miracle to his family yes, to the entire Linux community? Not a chance. If this is found to be false, I demand a refund for the time it took to read this rhetoric, it took me 15 minutes, I work $100 am hour as a network technician, minimum hourly wage. Either way fuck off with this tripe.

  • Mark Friesen

    What a f’ing waste of time. Did this kid also have a beer fridge in his room? The schematics are for a refrigerator. Maybe it was used to cool down his core temperature while he was in his forced coma.

  • Whoa folks, Let’s step back here for a minute. I should have done this before everyone went ballistic.

    Yes, I did pen this story, and yes, I did write it in dramatic style, but that’s the way I write and this person is still a minor. It was all I could do to maintain him and his family’s anonymity.

    This is a story of hope. A story of what an amazing world we live in and the resilience of the human physical condition. The boy turns of age in about 19 months. Then, if he wishes for his story to be told in front and center with all facts easily vetted, then that will happen and I will bring it here first..

    The schematic is a stock photo and is simply used as an illustration to give the story some color.

  • Mike

    No idea where all the hostility came from. I thought it was a good story.

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