Friends Rally for Former Baseball Star With Locked-In Syndrome

Photo: World News Person of the Week

In 1986, Pat Chawki was a gifted high school baseball player. His Grant High School team won the L.A. city championship held at Dodger Stadium -- the first baseball title in the school's history.

It was a peak moment that bonded the high school kids.

But Chawki lost touch with his friends, so much so that when a rumor went around that he had died, his classmates memorialized him with a slideshow at their 20th reunion.

When Laurie Green heard the news, she e-mailed condolences to Chawki's sister overseas. Green was stunned at his sister's response.

"She said, 'Actually my brother's not dead, thank God. He's just severely disabled. He has locked-in syndrome,'" said Green. "I asked her if I can visit him and she was like, 'Yes, please go visit him.'"

For nine lonely years, Chawki had suffered from a rare brain disorder that left him paralyzed and unable to speak, but fully cognitive.

The father of two had been moved to another town where his mother could visit him in a convalescent home. She was one of the few to see him in his isolation.

"As soon as I saw him, I felt like, 'Oh my God, I have to help this guy," Green said.

She began to help Chawki with simple sign language, and arranged for a machine to help him communicate with his eyes.

But Green's greatest gift was reuniting him with his friends.

"I come home, log onto Facebook, and there's a picture of Laurie Green with Pat Chawki in a convalescent hospital," said high school classmate Harlan Berk. "I sat there crying for an hour -- like, 'How is this possible?' ... He had to wonder, 'Why is no one coming to visit me?'"

Berk and another high school friend, Jason Peterson, went to visit Chawki and brought a picture of the baseball team. They asked Chawki if he could see them in the picture.

"And he pointed us out from our high school pictures, and I hadn't seen him in 20 years," said Berk.

"At that point, it really hit home that he was still there somewhere inside," said Peterson.

CLICK HERE to visit the Web site for the foundation that Laurie Green started to help Pat Chawki and others with neurological disorders.

Reconnecting With His Family

Chawki was still inside somewhere -- and his kids missed the dad he had been.

"He would always, like, be there for me," said his daughter, Danielle Chawki.

Green started a foundation for Chawki called Good Girls Give, raising $35,000 for his therapy. She also arranged a game in his honor at Dodgers Stadium -- the same place that once had meant so much to him.

His children threw out the first pitch. They now know for sure their dad is in there, and with the help of therapy he is learning to tell them he loves them in sign language.

This story originally was reported by ESPN.

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