OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - Brandon Kelman was a beautiful, healthy baby boy for about six weeks.
“He started having these quirky movements, reflexes that didn't seem quite right,” explained Georgianna Junco-Kelman, Brandon’s mother. “We were told, ‘Oh it's just a reflex. Babies do that. Not a big deal.’ Within a week's time they escalated to a point where it was clear there was something going on.”
What was going on were “infantile spasms”— the most catastrophic seizures an infant can have.
“The worst thing for any parent is to watch your offspring suffer and know that you can't do anything about it,” said Jonathan Kelman, Brandon’s father.
“The only solution at the time seemed to be what's called a hemispherectomy— removing half of his brain. You can't go in and perform brain surgery on a 4-month-old, because it's not gonna go so well. So they wanted him to get stronger so they gave him this medicine, to slow the seizures down. That's all it was supposed to do, slow it down. Doctors to this day are scratching their heads, not only did it slow them down, it stopped them.”
“We got extremely lucky in that the medication we did give him stopped the seizures,” added Junco-Kelman.
“However, because of the malformation he developed cognitive, physical delays, so his entire life he's struggled.”
Such was the backdrop for Brandon’s childhood. But the Kelman family persevered. In time, the kid who was not expected to walk or talk did both and so much more.
“To watch him keep developing with a never-say-never attitude, it inspired the heck out of myself, my kids, my neighborhood because people are amazed at where he has come from, where he should be, and where he is now.”
Sports were not a part of Brandon's life as a small child. He couldn't play them. He didn't watch them. That is, until his younger brother Jack showed him a video on the internet.
“Curry— when he started to make these unbelievable half quarter court shots,” explained brother Jack. “I found the video and I showed Brandon and he looked at it and I could see his eyes blow up the second he saw, and ever since then he's tracked every single game Curry plays, He knows every player on the Warriors, he'll know if someone is injured or out, it's really amazing.”
“Cognitively, we didn't even think he was capable of understanding. I was blown away,” said Junco-Kelman.
You might say, Curry became a “healthy obsession.” And then something even more amazing happened.
That obsession gave way to emulation.
“One day he came to me after watching Steph and said, ‘I want to learn how to shoot baskets,’” said Kelman.
“This was a child that I couldn't get go outside and play with other kids, couldn't catch. His balance was off.”
Mom chimed in, “He just kept practicing and practicing, and all of a sudden my kid was playing basketball.”
“I dribble the ball,’ said Brandon. “I can't dribble with two hands, but I try. And I shoot threes. I want to be just like Steph Curry. I want to be an NBA player,” said Brandon.
“Watching him over the last two years go from a kid who couldn't catch a pass to bounce passing and shooting and actually hitting threes and having the balance.”
“My kid was enjoying a sport and living a life as normal as a kid can being 14 years of age playing basketball outside with his brothers. I would have never dreamed in a million years - and we were told it would never be possible,” said Junco-Kelman.
Basketball and Curry became Brandon’s world. But in that world – unlike the one most of us live in – a boy’s idol is readily accessible.
“He said to me, ‘Mom, my only wish is to meet Steph Curry.’ Might as well tell me I want to meet Barack Obama. I went on this mission to help him meet his hero. Facebook, social media, got re-shared and re-shared. Long story short, I was connected to the Warriors, and here we are.”
Brandon not only got to meet his hero, he played ball with him for a good 10 minutes.
“To be able to bless other people's lives, give them inspiration and hope, for a kid like Brandon to just be able to get out and play, dribble, shoot, overcome obstacles; it just gives me more motivation to keep doing what I'm doing,” said Curry of the experience.
Mom was pretty much in shock.
“I am having an out of body experience, watching my kid out there actually throw the ball with Steph Curry and make it! Would've never dreamt it in a million years. It just gives him that sense that he can be normal— whatever normal means. I do think the sense of self-confidence he gained today is priceless to me. Absolutely priceless,” Brandon’s mom said.
Dad was equally blown away.
“It restores my faith in humanity. To be able to give my child a gift that he will have the rest of his life and he will feel like he is somebody. I just want to say thank you, and it's moving. Very moving.”
And Brandon summed it all up.
“It's the best day ever for me.”