The Harbinger Online

Junior Quinn Appletoft Manages Life With Disabled Brother

[media-credit name=”Jake Crandall | Harbinger Online” align=”alignleft” width=”199″][/media-credit]Two days ago, junior Quinn Appletoft ran a 5k in 18:20 in Chicago. That’s about six minutes per mile.
Today, he’s moving at a slower pace. He has to when he’s walking with his 26-year-old brother Patrick. He rests his hand on his older brother’s back, holding him by a strap wrapped around his Chiefs shirt. Even with his crutches, Patrick sometimes needs a little extra support, so Quinn acts as his backup crutch.
It’s a leisurely Sunday afternoon walk for the two brothers, but they don’t make it very far. They never leave the driveway. They just walk in circles. While it’s nothing compared to the 5k Quinn ran Chicago, it’s Patrick’s exercise for the day.
Since birth, Patrick has had a developmental disorder so unique, doctors diagnosed him with “unknown syndrome.” There isn’t another case like his in the world. Patrick’s problems include a mental age of two, muscle weakness and an inability to communicate beyond limited sign language.
During the day Patrick goes to an adult day care program, but when he’s home, he needs constant one-on-one attention. Since his communication is limited to signs like “more” and “finished”, the Appletofts have to instinctively know what he needs when. They have to feed him, bathe him, keep him hydrated, exercise him. His mother, Debbie, compares taking care of him to taking care of a toddler.
“You just kind of picture him about a year to two years old,” Debbie said. “[He’s] just completely dependent on you for everything.”
For Quinn, taking care of Patrick is a way of life. Helping Patrick around the house, playing toys with him, taking him for walks — they’re just extra chores that Quinn fits in between baseball games and homework.
“People would see it as ‘Wow, you have to do a lot of stuff to help him out,’” Quinn said. “I just see it as what I normally do. It’s just something that I’m used to.”
When the Appletofts first adopted Quinn, he was completely dependent on his parents, like Patrick. But as Quinn got older, he began to help his parents take care of his older brother. While Quinn has had to spend much of his life helping out with Patrick, he says it never really bothered him.

[media-credit name=”Jake Crandall | Harbinger Online” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]“I kind of came into having all of these things that we did to help out with Patrick,” Quinn said. “It didn’t really seem like I had all this extra stuff to do. It just seemed normal.”
In addition to helping with Patrick’s care, Quinn entertains his brother, playing toys with him, wrestling with him, making him laugh.
On this particular Sunday, he plays a few notes on the piano with Patrick and helps him read his favorite book, “Grandma and Me.”
“He’s stepped into a caregiver role, but he’s probably more fun than my husband and I,” Debbie said. “The good thing about Quinn is that he just has a really good attitude about Patrick.”
After pacing their driveway for 10 minutes, Quinn and Patrick head inside to rest. Patrick sits in the Appletoft’s family room and flips through the pages of his favorite magazine, Good Housekeeping. He flips through it once forwards and then slowly makes his way backwards looking for pictures he likes.

[media-credit name=”Jake Crandall | Harbinger Online” align=”alignleft” width=”300″][/media-credit]While Patrick does this, Quinn begins to take his white leg braces off. He unstraps one, sets it on the floor beside him and attends to the other. Like exercising Patrick, it’s a simple task for him, one he’s been doing for a long time.
He never asks for help from his mom as he unwraps each brace. Someday, he knows he won’t have the option. Someday, he knows he’ll be the one who has to take care of Patrick.
“I see it as something I have to be prepared for,” Quinn said. “I’m gonna be the person that knows what’s best for him once my parents are gone.”
This summer, at the behest of his parents, Quinn took big steps towards being able to take care of Patrick alone. He learned how to tape Patrick’s feet, how to shave him, bathe him, brush his teeth, anything he needed to know how to do to take care of Patrick alone. He’s not completely there, but he’s getting close.
Still, Quinn knows that one day Patrick will need him. He doesn’t mind. In fact, he feels he owes it to his brother to take care of him for what Patrick has done for him. While Quinn has taken care of Patrick for much of his life, Patrick has given him a lot in return.
In sports, Patrick has given Quinn motivation. Whenever he has a tough baseball practice or a cross country run he doesn’t want to do, Quinn thinks of Patrick, who’s never had the chance to play sports. When he thinks of what his brother would give to play a sport, he finds the motivation he needs. Quinn has used this motivation to make varsity in both of his sports.
Quinn says Patrick also forced him to mature and accept more responsibility at an earlier age. His experience with Patrick has given him perspective on life and how lucky he is. He says the most important lesson he’s learned from Patrick is to never take things for granted.

[media-credit name=”Jake Crandall | Harbinger Online” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]So the way Quinn sees it, taking care of Patrick down the road is the least he can do in return for the perspective Patrick’s given him on life. So when the time comes, he’ll be ready.
“I just see it as Patrick is something that’s gonna be a part of my life for the rest of my life,” Quinn said. “He’s my brother. He’s just a person I’m gonna take care of.”

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