Jaykob Duhamel, a Temple City High School pitcher, looks confident, strong and calm when he’s on the mound.
By looking at the way he plays, one may not be able to tell that the 17-year-old, who pitched a no-hitter last year, has been living with hydrocephalus, a neurological disorder which triggers paralyzing headaches, since he was 10 days old.
“I never know when [headaches] happen. They just pop up here and there,” the high school junior explains. “They can last for a week or a couple of hours. If they get worse, they start to impact my daily life where I can’t go to baseball practice or miss days of school.”
Jaykob’s parents, Dustin and Tracy, have also spent countless hours at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles with their first-born son. Tracy says, even after 17 years, she vividly remembers the moment during which she learned why her baby boy was having a series of seizures.
“If I can take it away, I would. I say it to him all the time,” says Tracy while wiping away her tears.
The Duhamel family leans on its “village” to help Jaykob through tough times. While the parents never let their son spend a minute alone in the hospital room and lean on the CHLA medical team, Jaykob’s grandparents offer support with other things, including taking care of his Jaykob’s brother, 13-year-old Kaysen.
“When it comes to his schoolwork, I make sure he gets things done and help him get through different projects and different timelines,” Tracy says.
As the mom helps the teen maintain his 3.5 GPA despite missing weeks of school at times, the father is in charge of making sure the aspiring college ballplayer stays in shape with his muscles working in the way they should.
“Headaches can come back tomorrow, and [Jaykob] can be back in the hospital,” Dustin says. “It’s on his shoulders. It’s his life. But he doesn’t complain about it. He doesn’t say, ‘Poor me.’ He works a little bit harder.”
Despite living with the illness that can force him away from the classroom and baseball field, Jaykob says the love of baseball is what keeps him going.
“One thing my mom says is, especially when I’m in the hospital, good days weigh out the bad days,” the teen says. “While I was in the hospital, I was in the full pain the whole time. The whole time, I was seeing my friends out in the baseball field. It was big motivation for me to get back out there.”
Jaykob, who is now looking to play college baseball, fully understands not everyone with hydrocephalus is as lucky as he is – especially with the support system through his tight-knit family. He hopes that children and teens with debilitating conditions can also tap into a positive mindset and look to the future.
“I take it one day at a time and know that it’s going to be over. I try not to let this thing bother me.”