Not many can say they’ve been hit by a car.
Earlier this year, Holliston High School junior Patrick Dillon walked into school with a metal leg brace and a story of a near death experience.
“People have said it was because of his condition. He was struck by a moving vehicle and broke his leg because of it. He came in with [a] big crutch.” said junior Liam Buntenbah, one of Dillon’s classmates.
Dillon has lived his whole life in Holliston and has known his classmates since kindergarten, yet many don’t know about his condition: narcolepsy.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a commonly known fact,” said Buntenbah, “ but he’s not against sharing it, he’s definitely open about it.”
Dillon’s injury, against speculation, was not caused by any medically related issues.
At the “beginning of the year during the summer, I was riding my bike, crossing the street and [the car] did not see me. It rode right into me.”
In third grade, Dillon was diagnosed with PANDAS syndrome, a very rare disease that triggers extreme OCD. It is so rare that Dillon had to travel all the way to Chicago for treatment. In 6th grade he was diagnosed with narcolepsy.
Narcolepsy is a sleeping disorder characterized by excessive sleeping, especially in relaxing environments. Dillon’s brother, William, also shares this condition.
The event involving his injury brought attention to Dillon, but it wasn’t the only thing that caught the eye of HHS students. Other students, especially upperclassmen, have noticed Dillon quite often. On the way back from lunch, seniors have seen him lying in the grass (or on patches of snow) dosing off.
“I always see [Patrick] lying right in front of the picnic tables. We are always so loud I have no idea how he sleeps through it. It can be freezing and unbearable to be outside but he’s out there sleeping anyway,” Senior Eli Goldfarb said.
As this became a daily routine, students were mystified by his dedication and ability to block everything out.
“It’s more of meditating, sometimes I fall asleep but not always,” said Dillon, “[I think about] nothing.”
Dillon’s constant desire to sleep has created challenges in his life. Even so, he does not treat narcolepsy as a disability or an excuse but as an overcomable obstacle. This year Dillon started running two miles everyday.
“There’s medication [for narcolepsy] but I usually don’t take it,” said Dillon, “ [instead] I run.”
Dillon sees medication as unnecessary since running not only suppresses his symptoms but enables a healthy lifestyle. He doesn’t stop at running: Dillon also bikes the upper Charles trail (around 20 miles) on the weekends and hits the weight room throughout the week.
“I run not [primarily] to battle narcolepsy but to be healthy. Making my sleep more controlled [is a benefit] and keeps me motivated,” he said.
Any opportunity he had, Dillon would run. This included even when he was in school.
“Whenever there was a free time or an [optional] activity [during gym], if he wasn’t interested in the game, or even if he was sometimes, [Patrick] would ask to run. He would spend the entire time running laps.”
With so much time, commitment and love dedicated towards running, one would think he would be interested in HHS’s track team. Dillon, however, does not see himself joining the team.
“In track you do it more competitively, but at the end of the day you should do what’s healthy for you. At this school I see a bunch of kids that if they don’t do physical activity it’s not because they can’t do it, it’s because [they think they won’t be] very good at it. You have [coaches] telling you what to do. I don’t want people telling me that I have to [run].”
Doing it solely for the enjoyment of the sport, joining the track team would take away his primary goal of staying fit. The priority and environment of competition that is created in the team sport detracts Dillon from the pleasure of running.
What started as a way to treat a neurological disorder turned into a passion for being fit and what once was an “inconvenience” became a source of pure motivation.
This year Dillon has turned one of his greatest disadvantages into a driving force to live a healthier lifestyle. For most people, wanting to be healthy stems from the need to impress others or to get into better shape; for Dillon it stems from narcolepsy.