Senior Speeches: Finn Simmersbach

June 04, 2018

I may have left this world for 23 minutes, but something brought me back and made me stay.

Each year, seniors at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School deliver a speech to their peers on a topic of their choosing in the Newhall Auditorium. Often equal parts clever and moving, emotional and personal, each speech offers a glimpse into the lives, experiences, struggles, and triumphs of SSM seniors.

Throughout the 2017-18 school year, we will share these speeches with the SSM community and hope that you enjoy the humor, wisdom, and powerful reflections conveyed by our senior students.

Our stories don’t always belong to us. In the beginning, our stories are really more our parents’ than our own. Our “memories” are mostly stories they’ve told us, about the way we once pronounced certain words, or the time our poop overflowed our diapers and ran up to our necks and down to our socks in the restaurant. My parents once asked me when my mom was pregnant 12 years ago, if I was hoping for a baby sister or baby brother. Apparently, I paused, reflected, and said in all seriousness, “I think I would rather have a puppy.”  Yeah, stories like that are us. But we don’t remember most of them happening.

One story that has significantly shaped my life and my family is the story of my birth. I was there - the star of the show. But I don’t remember it. See, when I was born, I wasn’t breathing. I was technically dead for twenty-three minutes. I don’t tell this story very often because people don’t believe it.

Right after birth, babies are given something called an Apgar test. It checks the baby’s heart rate, muscle tone, and other signs to see if extra medical care or emergency care is needed. It’s usually given twice: first at one minute after birth, and again at five minutes after birth. At birth, my Apgar was one. Minutes later, it was zero and remained that way for over twenty minutes. That means dead. And if they managed to resuscitate me, the doctors told my parents I might never walk or talk. Asphyxia is a lack of oxygen to the body, and there was a 97% chance I would develop Cerebral Palsy due to my severe asphyxia at birth.

Fortunately, I was born at one of the best hospitals in the world, in San Francisco. It was a teaching hospital, and when I was born, the interns in attendance had no idea what to do. They’d delivered a blue baby that appeared dead, and they looked around the room with no idea how to handle it. Finally, an attending physician barged in, screaming “What the […] is going on?” He picked up this little six-pound corpse and ran off into a separate room. After 20 minutes, everyone gave up except him. It was just him and me now in that room, and in his last effort to save this now ash grey child, he placed a tub into one of my lungs. This tub was hooked to a machine that blasts out oxygen. After countless tries and his final attempt to save me, he turned up the machine to the highest power, something that would tear open a 200-pound male, and managed to open up my lung just a little bit.

Needless to say, I made it. Six weeks later, the OB, Mindy Goldstein, told my mother, “In my twenty-year career, I have never once thought of God. But there is no medical reason your son should be alive. For six weeks I have been thinking about God. Your baby is here for a reason.”

UCSF still flies my mom and me to San Francisco every couple of years because I am part of a medical study regarding severe asphyxia at birth. They take EEGs and MRIs of my brain and run me through a battery of physical and cognitive exams with some of the top research scientists in the country. And it was on one of those free trips from Hawaii to San Francisco a little over 3 years ago that allowed me to try out for 3 USSDAs. This changed my life obviously. Without my birth trauma, I would not have had that free trip, not have gone to any tryouts, would have never found Shattuck, and would not be the player and person I am today.

My parents told me that when I was born, they promised to do everything in their power to help me reach my potential. At the time, they thought that could mean the best wheelchairs or cognitive therapists or feeding tubes. Now that I am mentally and physically normal, they have still kept their promise.

We all have these stories, whether we know them or not. My story is a mystery. My parents always told me that I was brought to this Earth for a reason. I may have left this world for 23 minutes, but something brought me back and made me stay. Like my OB, I’m not too sure about God. But I do know that my story hasn’t ended yet, and in the time remaining I may just figure it out for myself.



  • News Image