Horseheads, N.Y. Teen Finds New Purpose Through Illness
‘Curse’ of Tourette’s becomes a blessing in disguise
August 7, 2011
HORSEHEADS, New York — Seventeen-year-old Cory Sweet wanted to die five years ago.
His school report card, once full of the high 90s that made him proud, was in the tank. And his body would not stop shaking. It started in his head and neck, then moved to his arms and hands, where it remains today.
Three years passed before the cause — Tourette’s syndrome — was found. Three years of painful involuntary arm and hand movements. Experts said the cause was Cory — he wanted attention. He was picked on by classmates who couldn’t understand such behavior from a normally quiet and intelligent teen. His mom and dad, Debbie and Arnie Brown, took him to medical centers as far away as Rochester and Buffalo in futile searches for a diagnosis.
Cory sank into a depression that ruined his grades and triggered thoughts of suicide.
There is a happy ending, thanks to Cory’s grit, his loving family, a letter of apology from his classmates and an act of God. He graduated from Horseheads High School with high honors in June. Soon he’s off to college and a career fueled by lessons learned from his ordeal.
Tourette’s is described as “recurrent involuntary tics involving body movement.” To Cory it was a curse.
He reached his lowest point in an eighth-grade report card. He had failed English — unheard of before the shaking began. Convinced his only choice was suicide, he made a plan before his parents arrived to take him home. “I knew he was struggling, but I didn’t realize how bad it was,” his dad said. Cory fell apart on the way home. “I broke down and told them everything,” he said.
He voluntarily spent five days in a mental health program at Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca. Finally, a diagnosis was made by Dr. Daniel E. Britton, a Corning neurologist. Debbie calls Britton her son’s “lifesaver medically.” Said Cory: “The best thing he did was believe in me. He was the first doctor who told me I was not doing it for attention.”
Cory’s mental recovery began in ninth grade during family visits to His Tabernacle Family Church in Horseheads, where he said God got his attention. The depression left him. “I accepted Jesus as my savior, and I felt joy,” he said. Said his father, “It was overwhelming to see the changes in him.”
Cory found relief from Tourette’s in the church sign-language ministry. “They signed the praise and worship songs,” he said. “I imitated them and found it helped with my tics. I have control over my arms and hands.”
Today he is leader of the sign-language ministry. His report card returned to the 90s and he was inducted into the National Honor Society, the National Technical Honor Society and Phi Beta Kappa. Final high school average: 95.
Cory joined the Health Occupation Students of America and competed in its New York state medical math and prepared speaking contests this year.
The story doesn’t end there, though. Recently, on tyhe Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada’s Forum Community, Cory’s mother joined to update us:
Thank you for sharing my son’s story with everyone. He said if it even helps one individual then it was well worth telling his story. Cory is doing great in college and enjoys it very much. He is not limiting himself. The nice thing about college is everyone tries to be different. He is trying many new things like football, rock climbing and other activities. I know he has struggles and I’m sure when he gets stressed or homesick, his tics become much worse, but he is at home at this college learning interpreting, because it is a way of life for him. He is human and does have his days, but then realizes how bad it was at one time. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do anything or limit you! Find your calling and embrace it! Never give up! God Bless!
And she added the following:
Below is a… video of an example of a prepared speaking presentation that he took 2nd Place in at the HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America) this past Spring.
Cory was also denied the extra time from the College Board for his college testing, but he adjusted. He knew he had overcome much worse & this was just another obstacle he would have to overcome and not let it overcome him.