BREMERTON, Wash. — James Brown of Bremerton likes to show off the karate belts he's earned - he's up to a green belt now. His mom says he goes to a local karate studio twice a week and he loves it. You may have even seen him in a commercial recently, showing some of what he’s learned. Shooting it was a big experience for this 12-year-old.
“I felt like a movie star, there was a lot of smoke in my face, there was a lot of people there. And I had to do a lot of stuff," said James.
James made this commercial for MaryBridge Children's in Tacoma – a place that's been helping James take on another invisible foe.
His mom first noticed something was different on Christmas morning when James was 5.
“He just didn't look right, it was really scary,” said Nan Brown.
They took him to MaryBridge where they found James had Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis – ADEM - an inflammatory disorder that affects the brain. He's since been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.
A daunting journey for any family, but they haven't had to go it alone.
“Multicare has been awesome because anytime we have symptoms or even any questions they are right there to help us out and answer,” said Nan.
Today, James is thriving — a high-energy kid with a flair for the theatrical who likes playing video games, and "Star Wars" (not necessarily in that order) and of course, karate. He loves sparring, and he’s using the sport to manage his feelings about having to go to the hospital regularly, and his mom says it helps him with both focus and discipline. His friends think the commercial is pretty cool. And James says it’s even helped him help one of them:
“One of my friends in school had COVID and since they saw my commercial they asked me what should I do because they knew I was in the hospital and I gave them some advice.” That advice? “I would say don't doubt yourself, trust in your abilities.”
James is trusting his abilities to get him all the way to a black belt in karate.
And he has no doubt that he is not defined by MS but rather by what he loves — and who loves him.
“I really appreciate that Multicare and MaryBridge has really been there, they've been really helpful and they've helped us to get through this,” said Nan.
To see more of James' story, and to support MaryBridge Children’s Multicare and the many kids like James that they help every day, go to marybridge.org/donate.