Different because he had such a magnetic personality plus a laugh that brought attention to him. And it was clear that everyone knew this young man.
He also has Klippel-Feil Syndrome, causing his right shoulder to stick up and outward in an obvious and unusual manner.
But even though Christensen has this unique situation, don’t tell him he’s disabled. Doctors made that mistake when he was born with life-threatening problems and later when he was diagnosed with Klippel-Feil Syndrome.
“They told my parents I was going to die when I was born because of a heart problem. When that was fixed, I had to have brain surgery and they thought I’d die then, too,” Christensen said. “Then they said I would be severely mentally handicapped. Then it was I would be able to learn but I was going to be very slow in learning.”
Christensen has enjoyed showing the doctors how wrong they were, all the while appreciating the help he received to remain alive. Then at age 8 it was back to the doctors for more testing because his right shoulder was definitely sticking out of place.
“I had and have my backbone that has turned 180 degrees, which causes my right shoulder to stick up high,” Christensen said. “That is when I got the diagnosis of Klippel-Feil Syndrome.”
In addition he has had three vertebra fused together.
Christensen didn’t skip a beat even after the news that might send other youngsters into a deep depression. Even at a young age he had faith in God that it was for a purpose.
“I have no idea why this has happened to me,” he said. “Maybe to keep me humble, I’m not sure. But I’m sure there is a purpose to this experience.”
As he has grown through school and then as a student at South Davis Junior High School, Christensen reports he has been treated like every other kid and kindly by others, except a few who thought it funny to mock him — raising their shoulders in a cruel joke. But Christensen holds no ill will toward such people.
“Who knows why people do what they do,” he said. “Besides, why focus on a very, very small number of people like that when so many were so kind and a lot of people just never even seemed to pay any attention to it?”
Christensen appreciates those who are willing to ask him why he looks different, giving him the chance to educate. What can be frustrating is when people make assumptions based on lack of information.
“I like people who ask so they can understand what it is,” Christensen said.
The only significant difference between Christensen and most young men (other than the perfect grades) is that he cannot play any collision sports like football or lacrosse — but in reality he has no time for athletics right now anyway.
“I am so busy with academics and being class president that I can’t be on a sports team,” Christensen said. “I was on the swim team last year, but I won’t be doing that this year.”
And when someone gets slapped with the words, “you will never be able to…” Christensen says there is always hope.
“I would tell anyone who has been told they’ll never do something because of a medical condition to never give up, have faith and keep working at it — and never give up.”