Young Leadership Committee member, Andrew Conrad: My Life with EB

Throughout 2014, debra of America Young Leadership Committee member, Andrew Conrad, dedicated monthly posts to sharing his EB story. He wrote about what it was like when he was younger, his college days, the challenges he’s overcome, and how he continues to spread awareness for the disorder.

MAY 2014
Sorry this post is later May instead of the typical beginning of the month. May is typically a busy month for bankers, and as such, I have been working too much. I recently got back from Las Vegas on a real estate conference, which was 4 days packed with meetings and late night parties. It was a lot of fun while I was there but I am glad to be back in Chicago. Mix all that in with a few 5ks, 10ks and weddings… okay okay enough excuses, let’s get into it.

Earlier in May, I had the pleasure of going to the “Butterfly Girl” screening at the CIMM music festival in Chicago. Both my Mom and brother drove up from Peoria to attend the show plus my girlfriend corralled all of her family to make an appearance. It was great to be able to meet the director behind such a magnificent film, Cary Bell. John Evans, Abby’s father, also attended. He put on a show afterward playing a few of his favorite tunes plus a song he wrote about Abby.  The screening was held at the Logan Theater in Logan Square. It’s a smaller theater that holds a few hundred people per auditorium. The place was packed! Ran into a few parents who had children with EB and a lot of supporters of the cause. Very heartwarming.

Andrew Conrad with John Evans and his brother Sam
From left to right, that’s myself, John Evans, and my brother, Sam. We had a great time hanging out and getting to know everyone. Hopefully that’s not the last time we cross paths with John.

For this month’s post, I want to touch a little on what it was like growing up with EB. I learned alongside my parents trying to figure out the best way to approach things while moving through school with kids and parents who had no idea what was wrong with me. When I first started going to pre-school and kindergarten, instead of answering questions from every kid and parent that I interacted with, my mom thought it best to put together a presentation and speak in front of the class to inform the parents and children what the disease was and that it was not contagious. That happened to be the most common question (at least as far as I can remember), “is it contagious??” Children didn’t know any better but I always thought it ridiculous to have the parents ask that question as well. I would answer questions from “Were you in a car accident?” or “Were you in a fire?” My standard response, outside of sarcasm, morphed into “I have a very rare skin disorder called EB and I can fall and get scraped really easily.” Outside of the obligatory follow-up questions, that response typically covered enough in order to have kids move on to other things. The stares and the constant questions can make a kid with EB very self-conscious of his or her skin. Until I entered high school, I would always wear jeans or long pants and a long sleeve shirt because it was easier for me to be uncomfortably hot than to have to manage the questions and prying eyes of your peers. I eventually grew out of that becoming comfortable in shorts & t-shirts, but it was a long journey to get to that point. Sports always gave me a natural outlet to be viewed as an equal among my friends. I played baseball growing up and was always a pitcher. I like to think I was pretty good although I quit right before high school and picked up tennis. I obviously couldn’t slide into 2nd base when stealing but outside of that, I was pretty okay at everything else. I always went to public schools and for that, I am thankful. Through sports and public school, I learned to be self-confident. Growing up in the public school environment and being able to handle all the unwanted attention made me a more confident person today. I feel those experiences growing up gave me the ability to perform well today in my chosen field of business.

Next month (its already almost June… how time flies) I am going to be interviewing my mother who will cover what it was like having two children with EB and the challenges she faced. She has a lot of good stories and is a much better writer than I am, so I am sure there will be a lot of good that comes out of the interview.