Carson Stubstad keeps his schedule pretty busy. He was both Senior Class President and Service Club President at Amador High on top of his normal schedule filled with AP courses. But that’s exactly how Carson likes it.
“I’ve always wanted to be a part of everything,” Carson said. “And being at the point where you think you can’t do anything really showed me that there’s always something you can do.”
In November of 2013, Carson found his bright future very much in doubt when he began experiencing muscle weakness on the soccer field.
“His PE teacher and the soccer coach and a couple parents said something’s wrong with your kid,” Carson’s mother Ellen Stubstad said. “He’s running weird and he’s falling over. And we didn’t think much of it other than we decided to go to the hospital and just kind of get him checked out.”
After a battery of tests and several misdiagnoses, doctors told Carson he had chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, better known as CIDP. The rare disease is associated with muscle weakness, loss of reflexes and decreased mobility in the hands and feet.
“It’s like your nerve’s like a wire,” Ellen Stubstad said. “And it chomps at the outside of the wire. And that can grow back over time. But his also got a bit into the inside which would be your axons.”
The disease had an immediate impact on Carson’s daily activities. Simple things like opening a locker or holding a pencil were now complex tasks. The loss of balance led to multiple falls on the Amador High campus. Carson received medical care at Stanford University, a three-hour drive from the high school. Despite the frequent doctors’ appointments, Carson opted to keep his condition private from many of his friends. In fact, he went to great lengths to hide it.
“With my braces, I would always wear jeans,” Carson said. “And I had a catheter at one point where it would stick out like this. And I was known for wearing sweatshirts. But it was all normal.”
Carson was also determined to stay up to speed with his schoolwork.
“All these appointments we went on, it was, ‘Get me back to school,’” Ellen Stubstad said. “He also wanted to keep his grades up. Because he thought if his body was going to fail him, then he’ll focus on his brain.”
While many of Carson’s friends were unaware of his battle with CIDP, some of the staff members at Amador High were looped in and quickly stepped up to help.
“That’s the pride we have here in Amador County of the advantage of being small town is we truly are a family,” Amador USD Assistant Superintendent Jared Critchfield said. “And you just watch from counselors to staff members, teachers, it doesn’t matter. And this is the kind of stuff this school has done for decades.”
Nearly five years since the diagnosis, Carson is now in remission. The unfortunate reality is the disease could return at some point in the future. Now a freshman at the prestigious Claremont McKenna College, Carson is not allowing that fear to affect his plans. In fact, he says he’s grateful for the disease.
“It made me the person who I am today,” Carson said. “I feel like I’m a lot more open now. Before that, there was not a lot of adversity. There were just small things. But going through something this serious, in a time where you’re growing and learning, it opened my eyes to other people around me.”