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.
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.
When 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 is the founder of the Helios Project and Reglue, which for 20 years provided refurbished older computers running Linux to disadvantaged school kids, as well as providing digital help for senior citizens, in the Austin, Texas area. He was a columnist for FOSS Force from 2013-2016, and remains part of our family. Follow him on Twitter: @Reglue