Alabama Public Television Young Heroes of 2016

Austin Studdard

Oneonta, Alabama
Oneonta High School

Austin Studdard is honorary Oneonta High School football teammate. He stands on the sidelines at the Redskins’ games and cheers the team on – particularly his brother and best friend Tyler.

At birth, Austin was diagnosed with a diaphragmatic hernia. The hernia pushed all of his internal organs to the left side of his chest, leaving little room for his lungs. The doctors gave his parents little chance for survival due to the severity of the condition. Now—eighteen years later—Austin continues to thrive, having undergone 110 surgeries to date.

It has not been an easy journey, though. Among the many surgeries, Austin has undergone brain surgeries four times. Due to damage from the surgeries, he has been forced to learn to walk and talk again more than once. Austin has been in a wheelchair. Four times, he has been homebound and bedridden. “It is a continuous process and a way of life,” wrote nominator and guidance counselor Grace Malek. “I have watched Austin face each hurdle with courage and a smile, no matter where the surgeries left him, from a speech impediment to periods spent in a wheelchair.”

Austin’s nomination was accompanied by multiple letters from his teachers. Robin Stover wrote, “Austin’s determination to be present at school and his desire to live life make him our school hero.”

Assistant principal Sharon Standridge said, “His positive attitude is contagious for his schoolmates, his parents and the OHS faculty. Austin is truly a blessing and a tremendous inspiration to everyone.”

Teacher Beverly Anderson wrote, “On the field with the high school football team, in the halls or at special events, Austin is an inspiration to us all to take what life gives you and turn it into what life can be. Austin Studdard is my hero.”

Austin is an active member of Lebanon United Methodist Church, and his faith is strong. During one of this hospital stays, he told his mother, “I dream I see Jesus. He picks me up and takes me to Heaven.” With a don’t-cry-for-me attitude, Austin adamantly maintains that he is “just fine.”

In concluding her nomination, Ms. Malek wrote, “Austin’s big smile changed my attitude toward life. If Austin is at school, I have nothing to complain. Austin is a true inspiration to our students, school and faculty. We draw encouragement from watching him come to school or when he turns in his schoolwork right after a surgical procedure. Austin Studdard is a true hero!”

The selection committee agreed—and Austin Studdard is hereby recognized by his school and our state as one of the 2016 Young Heroes of Alabama.

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The Young Heroes Program is made possible through the support of:

Rosa Parks Museum
Blue Cross Blue Shiled of Alabama
Signs Now
Landers McLarty Chevolet
Medical Property Trust
Precision Graphics