Derrick Helton has seen and learned a lot from his condition with NF2. Coming from a small farm outside a village of 110 population called Tuscumbia MO, he did not know he had NF2 until he was 18 and decided to join the Marine Corps. During processing he failed the hearing test and when pursuing a waver to join the doctors found tumors on both acoustic nerves. At the same time a large tumor in the C3-4 regoin of his neck area spinal cord was found and severely pressing on his spinal cord. Obviously he did not get into the military as he had planned and could not work his trade of concrete construction anymore, but his life was about to change dramatically in another way.
Just after being found emergency surgery was decided to prevent a serious injury at that level which could be life threatening. During surgery another tumor in lower spine combined with spinal swelling from neck surgery resulted in paralysis from about the rib cage down. The nerve in which the neck tumor was connected caused some upper body function decrease as well. After a long recovery and reflection the signs of NF2 had been present from very early age, but always misdiagnosed and never found.
Now living as technically a quadraplegic and wheelchair bound, it was decided he needed to find a new path and way of life. He found the sport of wheelchair rugby as well as a college, The University of Arizona, which asked him to come play. It was the beginning of a new life and great adventure. Not long after he became good enough to represent Team USA and won many gold medals, world championships, and a bronze medal throughout his ten year run with the team all while traveling the world playing. In 2015 his career was cut short when once again NF2 showed its evil side and started causing seizures, a massive decrease in hearing and other issues. Now retired and trying to fight the new issues he has seen a dream of a new journey that involves community outreach as well as NF1 and NF2 awareness. Blessed with a given cup of lemonade from a lemon he feels its time to use what he has been through as a foundation to help others in bad situations pursue life to the fullest!
Currently he lives in Tucson, Arizona with his amazing wife Krista, and their awesome daughter Leila who is 2 years old. Soon he will be having his first brain surgery to combat the siezures and also plans to have an ABI placed to help his poor hearing. He will continue planning his dreams and takes it one day at a time. It's time to become an advocate for NF, NF2 and all who suffer. It's also a time to use the gifts he has left to do so in new and creative ways. Follow Derrick on Twitter: @derrick_helton