Eli Bambock didn’t take the standard road to graduation.
He can be seen using his prosthetic leg to pull a cart with his backpack around the elongated grid of Central Valley High School. Despite braving the birth defect spina bifida, and having a leg amputated at age 7 before he was adopted and moved to the U.S., he’s now close to 100 percent autonomous, something he could not always claim.
After graduating from Central Valley, he has plans to go to the Oregon coast with family. Then it’s the Cayman Islands with his friend to learn how to scuba dive. He’ll be traveling alone, the ultimate test of autonomy, which he approaches with excitement and positivity.
Bambock is a proud lover of the challenges of wheelchair basketball and the teamwork it entails, video games – most notably “Halo Destiny” – and also books. In school, the near-straight-A student fancies science and history.
That is Bambock today.
But in the not-so-distant past, memories of his home country, China, remain. His grip on the Chinese language fades, but he assures a reporter that with exposure and necessity, he could pick it back up.
It’s his positivity others seem to remember.
“He just has something inside him,” Eli’s mother, Mel Bambock, said. “As much as I like to take credit for it, we (his adoptive parents) weren’t there the first 10 years. It’s probably deeply engrained in him.”
From what the family knows, Eli was abandoned at birth with the name Guo Shengli (which Mel Bambock quips is “the Chinese version of ‘John Smith.’ ”) He was in an orphanage until age 6 or 7. From there, Bambock’s medical complications were pressing, and he was moved to a special needs foster care home.
In 2008, Bambock’s mental and physical endurance through his upbringing caught the eye of Mel and Ethan Bambock, a Spokane couple who had chaperoned service trips to China with a youth group. A year, a return trip and piles of paperwork later, Eli became a Bambock.
“Eli’s had to overcome a lot,” Mel Bombock said. “We all have choices, and you could choose to be positive or choose to see it (negatively), and I think he chooses to be positive.”
Despite chronic health issues, a shoddy orphanage and inconsistent medical attention, he persisted, his mother said.
In March, Bambock had his fourth “bone penciling” operation – shaving down the bone above his amputation – since moving to the U.S. It’s an operation he’ll have to have after each growth spurt.
He’s not sure what he wants to do for a career, but is leaning toward attending a local community college while he figures it out. The thought of college, and the future, brings Bambock a new challenge. Another one to embrace as he did the last: with positivity.
“It’s pretty exciting,” he said. “I want to see what it will be like.”
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