Kelseyville High School student Logan Jirout was just named the ninth-grade winner of 2022. Every Student Succeeding Award for Region 4, sponsored by the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA). The award recognizes students who have made special efforts to overcome obstacles to succeed.
His former teacher, Kerry Smith, and his former principal, Kelseyville Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Dr. Nicki Thomas, nominated Jirout for the award, which pulled nominees from Lake, Mendocino, Marin, Sonoma, Napa, and Solano Counties.
Jirout’s challenges began last spring when Jirout was “messing around and felt something pop in his back.” Upon examination, his mother found a concerning bump and immediately scheduled a doctor’s appointment. This was the beginning of a harrowing medical experience–one that involved four surgeries, a month in the hospital, physical therapy, and counseling, but ultimately, one that resulted in the triumph of a relentless work ethic bolstered by a can-do spirit.
Jirout’s visit with the doctor revealed severe scoliosis that was progressing quickly. Scoliosis is a medical condition characterized by a prominent curvature of the spine. The normal curvature is about 10 degrees. When measuring scoliosis, the curve is considered significant if it is greater than 25-30 degrees and severe if it exceeds 45-50 degrees. Jirout’s first measurement showed a 62-degree curvature. Just weeks later, it showed 75 degrees. Left untreated, severe scoliosis can threaten vital organs.
Initially, Jirout believed he would have one surgery and return home in a few days to recover, but a series of unfortunate circumstances ensued, from broken screws to infections. Not only did Jirout have to endure a painful physical recovery, but he also had to continually adjust to disappointing news that caused major disruptions in his life as he finished middle school and started high school.
Rather than fall prey to the negativity that could have made his situation worse, he took each setback as something he simply had to overcome. Today, he does not minimize the challenges he faced, but impressively, he does not cast blame or paint himself as a victim, according to Smith, his teacher at the time.
Smith said, “Logan is such a well-rounded young man. He cares about learning, and he cares about other people. He’s one of those special students who does the right thing even when no one is looking, who stands up for other kids when they need help.”
Smith said she was inspired by Jirout’s perseverance as he worked to overcome his situation. “I know he faced times when it was really rough–he was in pain; he couldn’t move himself in bed. But he kept doing PT [physical therapy], and he had the mental determination to keep going,” she said. Smith believes Jirout mirrors many of his parents’ character traits, saying they “are some of the most humble, down to earth, hard-working people I know.” She explained that during Jirout’s treatment, his mother put everything aside to care for Jirout full-time, while his father modified his work schedule to support the family. They supported Jirout every step of the way.
Jirout says he is grateful for his family’s love and support, and for Smith who came to his house to help him with his school work so he could make up assignments and finish eighth grade. He also appreciated the cards (and candy) from friends. When Jirout attended his eighth-grade promotion, he was in a wheelchair, but when his name was called to cross the stage, his father helped him stand tall (about four inches taller than before his surgery) and walk to receive his certificate.
Jirout is open about the difficulty of his experience and the steps he continues to take to heal.
“My mental state was horrible in the hospital. I couldn’t come home. I couldn’t do anything. I watched the same movies over and over. The food was good, though. Then I came home, and I thought, ‘I hate life right now.’ So, we got in touch with a therapist through Gaggle. I’ve been doing that for about a month. Being able to talk to someone helps a lot. And I’m still doing physical therapy and working on my weight. I’m way better now than I was,” he said.
Gaggle Therapy is a service funded by Kelseyville Unified that allows students to receive social-emotional counseling online with trained counselors at no cost to the student’s family.
Jirout got out of his wheelchair in August. Initially, he was terrified of falling. He said he felt paranoid, worried his back would snap and he would be forced back to the operating room. But once he fell and survived, he felt a lot better. “Now, I’m fine. It’s been months. I’m fine.” In October, he was cleared to return to in-person instruction on campus. It was difficult to start high school a month late, but given all he had been through, he was happy to be returning to a more normal version of life.
At this point, Jirout has returned to many of his favorite activities, including playing Fallout (his favorite video game), making things out of metal with his welding kit, and participating in Boy Scouts, where his dad is a troupe leader.
He said that by sharing his experience, he hopes to help other children learn that sometimes you cannot help what happens to you, and you just have to do the best you can.