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'I Am Potential' is a lesson on love

"I AM POTENTIAL: Eight Lessons on Living, Loving, and Reaching Your Dreams," by Patrick Henry Hughes with Patrick John Hughes and Bryant Stamford, Da Capo Press, 229 pages, $24

Patrick Henry Hughes has no eyes, but that doesn't mean he can't see. In fact, he probably sees better than most of the sighted world.

In "I Am Potential: Eight Lessons on Living, Loving, and Reaching Your Dreams" Patrick Henry tells his story with the help of his dad, Patrick John Hughes, and journalist Bryant Stamford.

Born with a rare congenital defect that left him eyeless and wheelchair-bound, unable to bear his own weight or completely extend his arms, Patrick Henry was not what his parents expected.

Disappointed and disheartened, facing something completely unknown, Patrick Henry's parents had few resources or role models. Their son was born before Google or Wikipedia, and information was hard to come by. Each step they took to make Patrick Henry's life better was paving new ground. The family went into procedures not knowing what the outcome would be — or if they would be worthwhile.

Caring for Patrick Henry became a full-time job. Everything had to be approached in a new way, yet his parents weren't willing to give up their dreams for his future. They wanted him to have the same opportunities as any other child. What they came to realize was Patrick Henry was anything but normal.

To the amazement of his parents, at the age of 9 months, Patrick Henry started playing the piano, carefully striking the keys and playing back sequences of notes in perfect order. Despite being blind and having a limited reach, Patrick Henry was a natural when it came to music.

This discovery opened unforeseen doors for Patrick Henry and his family. Having always dreamed of having an athletic child, Patrick Henry's father struggled with having a wheelchair-bound son. But music opened new doors, leading to of all places, a fully participatory spot on the University of Louisville pep band, with Patrick Henry playing the trumpet and his father pushing him through formations.

Despite all the challenges, Patrick Henry is a joy to his family, and his positive outlook on life is infectious. It's no wonder that he's been featured on "Oprah," appeared at the Kennedy Center or that his family was chosen to receive a custom house on "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

"I Am Potential" is everything a reader would expect from a motivational book. And while at times Patrick Henry's positivity reaches near saccharine levels, the sincerity behind it balances things out. Also, the point-counterpoint format with father and son shifting between narratives adds flavor and variety. And an extensive list of resources at the end of the book is a welcome addition.

Written in an almost conversational tone, "I Am Potential" is easy to read. And while it's not necessarily a major life-changing book, it serves up a large dose of humility and perspective.


E-mail: jharrison@desnews.com