If you think San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is tough, meet Turlock Junior High School student Ethan Millerick, who redefines toughness.
Ethan is a survivor far beyond what most people could even begin to comprehend. When he was born, Ethan was immediately transported to Stanford University Medical Center where he was diagnosed with multiple heart defects, a disease called Shone’s Complex and a weakened immune system.
His family was told he would likely not survive his first year of life.
Ethan is now 12 years old and has endured 25 hospitalizations, eight cardiac arrests and five open-heart surgeries – his first coming at just seven months old.
Around campus he is affectionately known as “The Ethanator” and “Epic Ethan.” He is active in school activities and he has served as the showcase speaker for the Camp Taylor project. Camp Taylor, a pet project of Kaepernick’s, benefits children with congenital heart defects.
Last week the Ethanator was recognized by the Stanislaus County Office of Education as the Turlock Unified School District representative for the “Every Student Succeeding” program, which is an award designated for students who have succeeded against all odds, beyond expectations, and have won the hearts of teachers, administrators and classmates.
Ethan is a fighter and he never gives up. Despite missing 24 days of school this year due to his health complications, he maintains a 2.5 grade point average. When he is at campus he regularly attends Club Junior High, where he receives help with homework.
His history teacher, Mr. Deal, praises his zeal for education and life.
“Despite hardships, Ethan continues to show such enthusiasm for learning. His positive attitude has helped renew my excitement for teaching,” he said.
At TJHS, Counselor Sandra Ramos and Dean of Students Steve Hunter have built close relationships with Ethan and provide influence, guidance and moral support for him.
Perhaps the best way to show Ethan’s massive heart and his love of life are his own words.
“Now that I think and look back at my life, I think to myself, I’m glad that now my life has changed and I can make my teachers happy and my parents proud of me,” he wrote for Every Student Succeeding.
Ethan is currently on “Home and Hospital”, a program allowing him to be at school when healthy, or at home when not. A teacher visits his home to continue instruction when he cannot be on campus.