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Concordia’s walking miracle

by The Concordian January 31, 2001
Being six-foot-five and weighing over 200 pounds, you’d figure that Concordia Stingers’ quarterback Brandon Nikiforuk has traveled the easy road in life to get where he is today.
But once you get to know the man his high school football coach fondly dubbed as “the walking miracle”, it’s a whole different story.
“I was in the hospital for an entire year,” said Nikiforuk, 24, of Madoc,Ontario. “It was either play volleyball or football, but the choice was obvious for me.”
At the age of two, Brandon was diagnosed with a collanoid tumor of the third ventricle in his brain, a condition which was only shared by three people across the globe. He is the only one to survive this extremely life-threatening
condition. Not only after one surgery, however, but after two more: another at the age of 10 and the toughest and final one when he turned 15.
His final surgery landed him in the hospital until he was 16, with total memory loss and the inability to walk, which put him in a heelchair for six months. He was left with 72 staples in his head and a special tube or ‘shunt’ which runs from his brain to his stomach to drain off fluid buildup.
Before his last surgery, football wasn’t his sport of choice, but preferred playing hockey. Nikiforuk was in the Ontario Hockey League draft as under-ager at the major-junior level. He was playing junior “B” at the time of
his last surgery.
“It was like starting over again,” said Nikiforuk, who spent his junior days playing along side players like Jeff O’Neil of the Carolina Hurricanes. “I was taken out of the draft so it was like I didn’t exist in hockey anymore.”
Now recovered from his ordeal, Brandon set his sights on his new sporting passion-football. Playing for Centre Hastings Secondary in Madoc, Nikiforuk played five years, winning back-to-back Provincial Championships and Male Athlete of the Year honours for his heroics.
With university ahead, Brandon was approached by six universities interested in his talent for their respected football teams, including Waterloo, Guelph,Acadia, York, Western and his final choice of Concordia. He started his studies in film, but is now finishing up his electives.
“It was the Stingers’ head coach [then Pat Sheahan] who persuaded me to come here,” he explained.
However, conflicting class schedules forced him to sit out three seasons with Concordia before he was finally able to be with the team. Another bump in the road as a result of his surgery, which has slightly affected his school work at times. He has a small, short-term memory problem.
“It’s still bad, but it’s getting better…what were we talking about again?” he says jokingly.
But with his past road blocks an incentive for him to succeed and with what he believed to be the worst behind him, he then faced the largest obstacle of all.
Tragedy struck home on July 17th of this past summer when he was informed that his mother had been murdered near her home in Toronto.
“I was in Toronto at my brother’s house and I had just gotten home from work at around 5 a.m.,” he recalls. “My mom’s sisters ran in and woke me up an hour or so later.”
An investigation has been going on ever since that day, a day that could have easily changed a person’s life for the worse. But with the positive influences of his father and late mother bestowed upon him to be focused on his goals, it gives him a positive outlook on life despite the hand life has dealt him during
most of his life.
“I have the determination and a strong will to succeed,” he said. “And a ‘never give up’ attitude.”
Some say it’s a miracle he’s even here today, but for now Brandon is doing his best to live a normal life as a student athlete at Concordia.
“People have told me I’m here for a reason, but I’m just waiting to see what that is.”

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