Grit fuels teen past health obstacles
By Deb Silverthorn
For Maya Kamen, when the Boy Scouts of America was renamed Scouts BSA and began accepting girls into its program in February 2019, it was a dream come true.
Maya was a devoted member of the Girl Scouts of America since she started elementary school. However, she had watched with envy as her brother Jaden’s Boy Scout troop experienced adventurous outdoor programs. She knew she wanted to participate in both organizations, and she became a founding member of Troop #21, chartered by the Plano Early Lions Club.
On Sept. 18, at the Circle Ten Council (BSA) John D. Murchison Scouting Center, Maya will be recognized at a Scouts BSA Court of Honor acknowledging her accomplishments and achievements as an Eagle Scout.
“Scouting in every way has always been a motivator for me and it has always brought me joy. I’m excited for this moment and also very proud,” said Maya, a junior at Shelton School. She is the daughter of Kim and Alex Kamen, and the family are members of Congregation Anshai Torah in Plano.
“The minute Scouts BSA opened up to young ladies, Maya joined Troop #21 and she’s been a leader ever since,” said A’Leta Dover, scoutmaster of Troop #21. The scoutmaster said that Maya has availed herself of everything Scouting has to offer.
“She’s ordinary and extraordinary, and grasped tightly with both hands.” Dover said.
A little more than a year ago, after years of headaches and dizzy spells went unidentified, Maya was diagnosed with Functional Neurological Disorder (FND), which rendered her paralyzed from the waist down and unable to talk for days, weeks and as long as a full month. As recently as January, Maya couldn’t walk and was using a wheelchair.
According to the Mayo Clinic, FND (also called conversion disorder and functional neurologic disorder), its cause unknown, is a newer and broader term that features real neurological symptoms that can’t be explained by any medical condition. Signs, symptoms and their severity vary and, typically, FND affects movement or senses such as the ability to walk, swallow, see or hear.
The condition may be triggered by a neurological disorder or by a reaction to stress or psychological or physical trauma and is related to how the brain functions, rather than damage to the brain’s structure. Early diagnosis and treatment, especially education about the condition, can help recovery.
“Despite several setbacks, thanks to her incredible sense of determination, her wonderful team of health care providers, friends and family, she has learned to walk again, talk again and move ahead,” said her mom. “Scouting inspires you to better yourself and your community; how could we not support her wholeheartedly?” she added.
Maya has been a part of Shelton School’s Charger Sports Medicine student athletic training program since entering the sixth grade. For her Eagle Scout project, she brought her two passions together, raising funds, sourcing materials and leading a team of volunteers to build and donate weight racks and repair a storage cart for Shelton’s athletic department.
“I’m not an athlete, but I’ve always loved sports and been fascinated by athlete care and what I now know as ‘psych performance’ by which an athlete’s recovery is 20% physical and 80% mental,” said Maya. “For me this year has been filled with both challenges and I’m more interested than ever in a career in the field.”
Krystal Cunningham, Shelton School head athletic trainer, notes that Maya was the youngest student ever to begin her program. “Maya was my first, and only so far, middle school student in the program and I’ve watched her really grow up. She is a hard worker, totally driven and a self-starter. She really cares about the athletes, and they return the fondness.”
Cunningham explained that the program is a foundation for those interested in pursuing a medical career and the students are provided with a lot of information. “With Maya’s experience of the last year, we’ve all learned about, and from, her. From the clinical concern and from her courageous inspiration,” she said.
Maya’s showing dedication to her family, school and the Scouts BSA all at once isn’t something Dover is surprised by at all.
“Scouting is transformational, about choices and giving. Maya is all about everyone being their best self and comfortable in their skin,” said Dover. “She’s a decade ahead of herself and, even through her medical trials, she’s never let herself, or anyone, down — never let anything interfere with her dreams and goals.”
Completing her Eagle Scout goals, Maya is next working toward Scouts BSA Venture program and earning the Girl Scouts Gold Award through her commitment to Troop 7917.
“I’m grateful for everyone’s support,” said Maya, “and I believe my accomplishments are even greater because I pushed past it all.”