Noah Aldrich is a typical 11-year-old boy, but four years ago he began doing something quite remarkable and atypical with his younger brother Lucas, age nine. Lucas has lissencephaly and is unable to walk, but thanks to Noah, Lucas is a triathlete and has participated in 15 triathlons.
“When my little brother Lucas was born, my parents were told that he wouldn’t walk or talk and the doctors even said he might not make it to his tenth birthday,” said Noah in a video for Great Big Story. “But today, a few months away from his tenth birthday, we’re doing our 15th triathlon together.”
Lissencephaly is a rare, genetic, neurological condition in which the normal folds and wrinkles of the brain are missing. As the brain develops in the fetus at around 12-14 weeks gestation, the nerve cells begin to move, but in children with lissencephaly, they don’t. This can cause failure to thrive, intellectual impairment, psychomotor impairment, seizures, and difficulty swallowing, among other issues. For children with severe lissencephaly, there is a life expectancy of 10 years with common causes of death including choking, respiratory disease, and seizures. Children with mild lissencephaly can have near-normal development and brain function.
“Despite all of his challenges, [Lucas] is the happiest little boy that you’ll ever meet,” said the boys’ mother Alissa Aldrich.
Noah pulls Lucas in a raft during the swimming portions of triathlons. During the bike portion he pulls him in a bike cart, and during the run, he pushes him in a running cart.
“I wanted to do this because Lucas can’t do things like we can,” said Noah. “He can’t really play sports so this is something we can do together.”
In all, Noah and Lucas swim 200 hundred yards, bike three to five miles, and run about a mile together. Noah says he often wonders how much race is left to go.
“Noah is strong physically and especially mentally because he’s truly only doing these races for his brother,” said their father Brian Aldrich.
Nearing his tenth birthday, the family knows that Lucas has shocked the doctors, but there is always the question hanging in the air of how much longer they will have him.
“Every day is precious with that little boy,” said Brian Aldrich. “I try to soak in that experience because we don’t know how long the boys will be able to do triathlons together. Any one of them could be their last. What these boys accomplish gives me an immense sense of pride.”
“Noah and Lucas are an inspiration,” added Alissa Aldrich. “People see these two young boys and it gives them hope and it gives them encouragment to go out and tackle life challenges.”
All life is precious, valuable, meaningful, and worthy. These brothers prove that.