New milestone nears for ‘miracle baby’ Grant Renck: a Coronado High diploma
There is a unique mystery inside a small, disengagingly tough young man on the Westside.
On Feb. 7, 1989, when Grant Renck was unexpectedly born 23 weeks after inception, he was not supposed to live - let alone walk or talk. He weighed less than a pound and a half and was no larger than an adult hand.
But his parents, Les and Deb, both life-long Westsiders, did not give up. “We were there, talking to him, reading to him,” Deb said during a recent interview. “They tell us that's why he survived.”
After eight months in the hospital - seven of them in intensive care - they brought their son home. “The doctors said he was one of the smallest babies who ever survived,” Les said.
“He's our miracle baby,” Deb said.
Raising their son in the years that followed, they realized he would always face an uphill struggle. It hasn't just been adapting to his below-average size, learning to talk despite a speech impediment relating to his premature birth (“Speech didn't come for a long time,” Deb explained; he used sign language until about second grade) and learning to walk with a walker. He's also needed surgery on his eyes (he was born with only one working eye, which itself had cataracts - the other has a completely detached retina), on his spine (to correct a severe curvature) and on his heart.
Then there is his weak immune system, which leaves him more susceptible to contagions than most people. Two years ago, Grant's lungs got infected, and he was in intensive care for 6 ½ weeks. “He was so close to death they were calling the chaplain,” Deb recalled. “Bless his heart, he is a soldier. He never, ever complained.”
Mom and Dad have hung in there too. They work with Grant, joke with him, cover his medical costs (“There have been some nasty bills,” Deb noted. “We've been able to pay them - some faster than others”), and stand up for him (for example, a previous teacher said he couldn't understand Grant's inflections; “Listen to him,” Deb instructed).
Through it all, their son has kept going to school - from Washington Elementary to West Middle School to (at present) Coronado High, receiving regular achievement awards and attaining a 3.75 grade-point average in District 11's special education program. And now a happy milestone is looming for Grant and his parents. He will graduate from Coronado in May.
On a recent afternoon at the Renck house, Grant was patrolling the carpeted living room floor, in the midst of several TV sets and clocks (both hobbies of his). He was not overwhelmed by the arrival of a newspaper writer. He was having a good time watching NASCAR (his favorite driver is Carl Edwards) and, in any case, why should a person who has been through as much as he has look forward to a stranger asking him questions about it? Still, Grant was not rude - just succint.
Example: How does it feel to graduate from Coronado? “Yippee.”
Another: What will you do after you graduate? “I don't know.”
Fortunately, Mom and Dad were there to fill in some of the blanks. For one thing, Grant has two part-time jobs. He helps with office work two days a week, one hour a time, at the Cheyenne Mountain Library, and daily in the Coronado office.
As for post-high school plans, Deb figures he will stay at home until he's at least 21, taking advantage of programs - one through the state, another through Goodwill Industries - that could further prepare him for the working world and help him, as Deb put it, “find what things he likes.”
It's evident he's got the talent for computers that his generation is known for. “We got him a World War II game for Easter, and the next thing we knew, he had it going,” Les chuckled.
He's not much into the sedentary video games, but has been enraptured by the physically active Nintendo Wii, his parents said. It gives him a chance to simulate playing sports. Bowling is Grant's favorite, according to his folks.
Another hobby he likes is photography. Unfortun-ately, he was stymied in this regard at Coronado this year. Its new photography lab is upstairs - in a building without an elevator, Deb related with disappointment.
The relationship between parents and son is respectful and good-natured. A couple of times, while Les was explaining a point, Grant had an idea and spoke up: “Dad?” … pause a few seconds…. “Dad?” To which Les responded, “Grant, I'm talking. You need to wait until I'm done.” To which Grant responded, with a patient smile: “OK.”
In the end, after spending a couple of hours with the Renck family, a visitor left with a sense of admiration for a quietly brave young man.
But the mystery remains. Asked to explain how he has constantly outperformed his doctor's expectations, Grant looked up with a secret gleam in his good eye: “I don't know,” he said.
Westside Pioneer article