GameZilla Gives Back Personal Story - Grimlock

Here at GameZilla Media, we have started our fundraising campaign with Gamers Outreach to build a “GO Kart,” which is a portable, medical-grade gaming kiosk nurses use to transport video games and entertainment to children who are unable to leave their rooms within the hospital.

Over the course of our campaign, we will be sharing with you personal stories from our team that discuss video games and how impactful they’ve been in our lives. This story is from Grimlock (Jay):

Growing up, I was your typical nerd, talking about video games all day at school, getting my Gameboy and comic books confiscated by teachers, and half-assing my homework so I had more time to game. I tried my best to have a normal childhood, but like many others in this unfair world I faced challenges; this story is how gaming helped me overcome a health scare and rediscover myself.

I grew up a little different due to being born with a cleft palate; I have had more surgeries than I can remember due to this condition. For the most part, everything went according to plan. I was young and just bounced back and kept enjoying life. Then high school hit and life kicked me to the ground hard and would not let me back up.

I have had challenges in life with looking different and being bullied for it, but nothing stands out like my sophomore year in high school. I had been missing a tooth that never came in due to my cleft palate. I was now old enough to have an artificial tooth. Finally I wouldn’t be asked why I was missing a tooth; finally I would stop being teased about my teeth. I went to my doctor appointment, excited that this was finally happening, but I left feeling discouraged. I thought I was getting 1 tooth but it turns out the 2 teeth on each side of the missing tooth were never fully developed and had nerve damage, so they would both need to be removed as well. On top of that, I did not have enough bone structure to support implants, so they would need to do a bone graft. This was unfortunate, but in the end it would lead to a full mouth of teeth and not being afraid to smile anymore.

I went ahead with the procedures. First we would remove the teeth and do the bone graft. I would need to let that heal before we could move forward with the tooth implants. This is where my nightmare began; upon returning home from the bone graft, I was sitting on my parents’ couch when my mom gasps and tells me to stay still. I was still numb from the procedure so I did not feel the blood rushing out of my mouth and down my shirt. My mom rushed to get some supplies to try and help while she called the doctor. We were able to get the bleeding to stop, but it was a sign that this was never going to work. Turns out my body was rejecting the bone graft and the wound in my mouth wasn’t healing.

The doctor recommended an artificial bone graft so that we wouldn’t need to take bone from my hip (taking it from my hip would mean increasing my healing time), but my body did not accept the artificial bone. After weeks of trying to get improvement and my family losing faith in the doctor, the recommendation was that we would need to go back in, remove it all, and start over. This is when I snapped; I broke down and ran out of the doctor’s office. I can’t even explain what was happening, all I remember is grabbing a large tree branch that I found on the ground and yelling and swinging it into a tree. I was so frustrated and needed to let it out. I went in to have one missing tooth replaced and instead I had a giant wound in my mouth, with 3 teeth missing. I felt lost and hopeless, like no one could fix me. They prescribed me a pill to help calm me down and we had the graft removed; that was the last time I went to that doctor.

I was now home with no answer in sight, still healing and now missing 3 teeth. The good news was the wound was healing since the artificial bone graft had been removed. The situation was looking better, but I was pretty much confined to the house due to fear of infection. I had teachers coming to my house after hours to help me stay in school because I couldn’t attend. This is when the first rumors started spreading around school that I had died. It was so strange to take phone calls from people asking if everything was okay, because they had heard I died. All this built up and I needed an escape. I needed to find a place where I could be normal, where I didn’t feel like a prisoner.

This is where video games came into play. I think back to that time in my life and believe that video games saved my life. I was in a dark place with no answers, I was depressed and had no outlook on the future because I had no answers for today. I was lost. The only safe place I could find was inside my favorite video games. I would sit down and fire up my Sega, PlayStation, or Nintendo, and find another universe I could explore. In this universe I could be a plumber, race car driver, hero, or whatever I wanted; in this universe I was normal, I was healthy, I was happy. Video games gave me balance. Coming out of gaming and back to real life was never fun, but I was able to fight and overcome difficult situation because I had an escape.

Defeating bosses, winning races, and overcoming the odds taught me more about myself. Those victories were not just in the game anymore; I would come back to real life and walk in to my next doctor appointment with confidence and determination.

Since my dad sat me in front of his old Atari, I have been a fan of video games, but during this time of my life is when I truly became a gamer and fully started to appreciate what this art form can do for people. To this day I still use gaming as a therapeutic tool to help me relax and re-balance.

I finally healed up and my parents found a new specialist to help get my mouth back in order. We learned that implants were not going to be an option and that I would need a custom bridge made. This would be a long process, so in the meantime I would have a custom retainer made that had 3 fake teeth attached to it. This was mainly for looks and would help me feel somewhat normal in school. But how normal can you feel when you are 16 years old and need to use denture glue to keep a retainer from falling out of your mouth? Or even worse, have the teeth break off the retainer because you forget and try to chew with them. But I had my life back, my friends were happy to see me, and I was happy to be part of the world again. Eventually I got my bridge and got my life back on track, I could smile and eat normally again, I could run around and do whatever I wanted, I was no longer a prisoner.

Gaming saved my life and gave me a tool I will use for the rest of my life! Now I want to pass on my experiences and show others how gaming can help them.

~ Jay Parks (Grimlock)