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Patrick Henry Hughes: When Life Gives You Lemons
”On the day I was born, you might say I arrived carrying a bag full of lemons, not the kind of thing my family had in mind. I think they would have preferred oranges; they’re sweeter and have less bite.”
So writes Patrick Henry Hughes in his inspirational 2008 book, “I Am Potential: Eight Lessons on Living, Loving, and Reaching Your Dreams” an autobiographical account of his first 20 years in Louisville, Kentucky.
Patrick describes the shock and horror his mom and dad experienced when they were told he had been born with a complex of birth defects, including being born without eyes, and with shortened limbs which he would never be able to fully straighten. Their son, the doctor said, was blind and crippled, for life.
Patrick continues: “But life is what it is and you just have to keep going. You can’t change lemons into oranges, no matter how hard you try. But just because you can’t do that doesn’t mean you give up.
“Mom and Dad taught me you have to hang in there and learn to deal with what happens to you. And once you do, you discover that lemons are pretty cool and you can make something better out of them, like lemon meringue pie. One of my favorites.”
Patrick Henry’s mom and dad brought their infant son home, and began to look for ways to make a future worth living for their baby.
“My parents were my earliest and best teachers. But before they could teach me about acceptance, they had to learn it themselves. It wasn’t easy, and to hear them tell it, they had to go through a crash course that started with letting go of their hopes and dreams, and especially their dreams for me. Pretty tough, but you can’t move forward unless you’re willing to accept where you are.”
Patrick Henry’s mom and dad were warned that there might be other things wrong with their child, with hints about possible mental problems. In the first few years of his life, Patrick had to endure at least six different surgeries, among them the implanting of two steel rods in his back to help correct a spinal malformation called Scoliosis.
But they learned soon enough that their son was otherwise perfectly normal. He began learning to talk like any child, responded to his parents and to life around him like all normal kids, under the circumstances. And they also learned something even more exciting. Their “disabled” child was a something of a musical prodigy – so much so that it could be considered incorrect to call him disabled at all.
Before he was even one year old, Patrick Henry’s dad plunked him down in front of the family piano one day. His tiny hands were guided to the keys, and in no time, as you might expect, he learned that depressing the keys made interesting sounds. So far, all normal.
What was stunningly unexpected, however, was Patrick Henry’s fascination with those sounds, and the instrument. In what seemed like no time, he began learning how to play songs as soon as he was shown the melody. Not only that, by his second birthday, he was playing requests.
A popular video on the website Youtube shows Patrick perched on the piano bench, responding to requests for songs. His dad asks, “Can you play, You Are My Sunshine?” And that’s what the tiny musician plays, his head happily rocking back and forth, a la Stevie Wonder. His dad asks him to “Play Twinkle!” And Patrick plays Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,without missing a beat.
As the years passed, Patrick was able to attend school, complete high school, and even complete college. He was presented with two younger brothers, Jesse and Cameron, both of whom were born free of any problems. As he was growing up, Patrick studied piano, and later began studying the trumpet.
Before he was even in high school, Patrick was attracting media and public attention. He performed live (piano/voice) on an “Amazing Children” episode of the Maury Povich Show, in 1999. He performed live, nationally, on the Grand Ole Opry with Grammy Award winning singer Pam Tillis, Grammy nominated group Lonestar, and country music stars Chad Brock, Bryan White, and Lane Brody.
While in high school, Patrick was Outstanding Choral Soloist at the 2002 New Orleans Music Festival, was selected to “Who’s Who among American High School Students” for four years, performed for Jefferson County Public Schools and VH1 Face the Music grant presentation, and was an Official Olympic torchbearer, in December 17, 2001.
Patrick was also an exemplary student, a member of the National Honor Society with a 3.99 grade point average K through 12th grades.
During all this time, Patrick was becoming something of a local celebrity. And music remained his big love. While at University of Louisville, the director of the Louisville Marching Band, Dr. Greg Byrne, asked Patrick to join the band. He was super-enthusiastic about it.
“My dad and I were hearing this, and we’re like, ‘Yeah, right!'” Patrick says with a huge smile, during an ESPN special on Patrick. “I mean, how in the heck am I supposed to march!” But Patrick’s dad, whose name is Patrick John Hughes, said he’d jump right in. “If Dr. Byrnes is that passionate about it, and Patrick wants to do it, then by golly I’ll give it my all.” Patrick John worked a night shift so he would be available to help his son get around during the day.
And soon, the U of L football crowds began seeing half-time shows with Patrick playing trumpet, while his father pushed him in his wheelchair through the intricate marching routines. The videos of the performances on the internet have to be seen to be believed. You’ll get a smile on your face you just can’t wipe off. Or a tear in your eye. Most probably, you’ll experience both laughter and a joyous tear or two.
The football fans went wild, and this brought the media out yet again to see what all the excitement was about. Throughout the fall football season, the father and son were featured in local television and newspaper stories, and Patrick became a genuine local celebrity. But then it turned into a media explosion with international consequences. Patrick was soon playing piano and singing in musical performances and making speeches throughout the world.
He was featured on ESPN, ABC-TV, Oprah, CBS-TV, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Extreme Make Over Home Edition (the family got an entirely new house!), FOX-TV, CSTV, NBC-TV, The Today Show, Million Dollar Round Table, People Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Star Magazine, and many, many others. He played solo trumpet on stage in performance with the Louisville Orchestra. And most recently, he has become an in-demand inspirational speaker for schools, corporations and institutions around the world. He has appeared from California to New York and Chicago to Texas and Miami and countless points in between, and has performed in Asia, Canada, South America and Europe.
Patrick has said he is dedicating his life to helping others find their way through whatever difficulties and challenges they may face. The list of appearances on the Hughes website is modestly introduced: “Some of the Keynote Presentations my dad and I have given …” What follows is a staggering list of hundreds of appearances all over the world. This is a young man who is not letting anything stand in his way of helping others.
“At first, it’s natural to wish we could change the past,” he said. “How wonderful life would be, we tell ourselves, if only this or that had happened instead. But where does that kind of thinking get you? Nowhere, and worse, it keeps you stuck there. I can honestly say I’ve learned that lesson and I do accept my life as it is.
“I’ve known from an early age that I was dealt a hand in life different from the cards others got. That’s okay, because I also learned God would help me play that hand if I was willing to accept what I was missing and be thankful for what I can do.”
At Novus Medical Detox Center, our clients have accepted their situation, and made the all-important decision to start making lemonade out of whatever lemons they have dealt themselves, through substance abuse. Novus Medical Detox is the first vital step in that life-affirming journey, and we are proud to help them reach their destination.
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