SAN ANTONIO - Conrad Tullis’ body is uninjured, but his brain won’t let it work.
At 18 months old, Conrad fell into his grandparents pool and nearly drown. He suffered severe brain damage.
"I used to think you either drowned or you didn't drown. You lived or you died," said Conrad’s mother, Liz Tullis.
After being under water for nearly 25 minutes, Liz and Matt Tullis said they knew their son would never be the same.
They've also never given up.
Now they need help to discover what is happening in Conrad’s brain.
Conrad goes to Alamo Heights Cambridge Elementary, where therapists and doctors work his body and his brain.
"I'm not living in some kind of bubble myself that says he's definitely going to walk or he's definitely going to talk, but I just live in this. But what if?" said Matt Tullis.
"We know from evidence that when we talk to Conrad, he responds, but we don't know how he's responding. Is he making connections? What is going on in his brain?"said Liz Tullis.
In the Special Education Room, one of Conrad’s teacher, Natalie Brown, uses buttons and eye blinks to communicate.
"He's definitely telling us what he wants. What he doesn't want? His facial expressions say it all." Brown says.
In Megan Canales' room, Conrad is treated like any other 4th-grader.
"I was reading the other day and I had to tell him to stop interrupting me. I mean he has things to say, and he wants to say them," said Canales.
"(We) keep his mind working, just like as if it was a muscle, and just keep stretching it," said Matt Tullis.
The Tullis’ next step is at the UT-Health Science Center, where researchers are studying the brains of children with Autism.
Dr. Peter Fox is ready to study Conrad and others who survived near drowning. The Tullis family and and Fox just need to raise the money to pay for the research.
"As long as he's alive, as long as he's showing progress, you know we're going to keep going down that path with him," said Liz Tullis.
Conrad’s parents have set up a fund at ConradSmiles.com, and Fox has applied for grants to help give the Tullis family -- and families like theirs -- answers about the mysteries of their child’s brain.
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