Two young men who weren't supposed to live past age seven have just graduated from high school, and their story of perseverance and friendship is one that will fill even the hardest heart with hope.
When Odin Frost was born, his Apgar score was so low he had to be on a ventilator to breathe and he spent two weeks in the NICU. Born prematurely, his mother had preeclampsia that caused stress during his birth, he had bleeding on his brain, and a club foot as well. For his first few years of life, he was in and out of hospitals as doctors attempted to treat him. Odin's parents were told that he was so behind in physical and mental development that he may never catch up. They prepared for him to need a wheelchair full-time as he got older.
At age 3, Odin was accepted into a school that works with special needs kids in his hometown of Tyler, Texas. There he would receive a diagnosis of severe autism with speech and mobility impairment—and also where he would meet his best friend, Jordan Granberry.
Jordan, too, had a complicated birth. His brain was deprived of oxygen for too long, resulting in permanent brain damage. As a newborn, he was flown to the same hospital that would treat Odin a few weeks later. Like Odin, Jordan spent his first few years of life in and of hospitals, and also meeting with specialists. He was given a life expectancy of seven years, and his parents were told that if he lived longer he would live in a vegetative state. He didn't receive a proper diagnosis until age 10.
Both boys had hypotonia, meaning muscle tone doesn't grow the way it's supposed to. Doctors didn't expect either of them to ever walk or talk. That's one reason why watching them walk across the stage and graduate from high school this week felt like a miracle to their parents.
Odin's dad, Tim Frost, shared the best friends' story with Upworthy, from their families' special friendship, to what it meant to see them walk across the stage to receive their diplomas this week.
The boys met as preschoolers, Frost says, when "Jordan initiated Odin into his friend zone by biting his ear, and Odin retaliated by pinching his leg. After that they were inseparable in the classroom."
"Even though both boys are mostly non-verbal, they have a connection to each other that you can just feel when they are in the same room," says Frost. Pre-pandemic, Odin and Jordan would see each other every day since their classrooms were just across the hall from one another. Odin would often bring music to school to share with his friend. "Both boys enjoy long car rides listening to music as loud as possible," says Frost, "and pinching each other, of course."
"They also both like to pick at their mom and dad and most likely have a secret language that they laugh and joke about doing so in," he adds.
Frost says that he and his wife have been close to Jordan's parents for the past 15 years, as the couples raised their kids together. Jordan's mom has been a hairdresser for 25 years and is "the only one quick and brave enough" to cut Odin's hair.
Walking his son across the graduation stage was meaningful for Frost in more ways than one. He himself had dropped out of school and was homeless at age 13. He'd never gotten to make that walk to receive a diploma himself, and doing it with his son Odin felt "momentous."
Jordan's walk was momentous as well, since he had just started walking for the first time at the end of 2019.
"Yesterday they got to graduate together under a very weird a anxious time we are in," says Frost, "and honestly, watching and being a part of it gave me so much hope. Seeing and knowing what these two have been through and then getting to experience a high school graduation for both boys with so little expectations put on their lives was one of the most beautiful things I've ever got to witness."
Frost hopes that sharing Odin and Jordan's story helps the boys be seen. "And not seen in a way of wonder or for people to feel bad for them," says Frost. "I want them to be seen for the miraculous humans that they are."
"Just because someone can't speak back to you doesn't mean they can't understand you," Frost adds. "Just because something doesn't look like 'the normal' doesn't t make it any less than. Both of the boys have more personality, drive, wit, humor, and joy in them to fill anyone's heart with joy. The determination to live and live fully that both of these amazing humans have should inspire and feed hope to anyone who may be looking for it."
Frost says that the family has received a flood of positivity from his sharing the boys' photo and a bit of their story on social media, which has been heartening.
"They are the joy bringers," he says.
Indeed, they are. Congratulations on your graduation, Odin and Jordan. We wish you the best and brightest future possible.
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