Rachel Taylor can't recall the moment that made her an inspiration to so many.
At age 5, the Riverside Middle School sixth-grader was diagnosed with a brainstem tumor. She underwent an eight-hour operation to remove the tumor when she was 6 and survived multiple complications, including four more surgical procedures, seizures and fungal meningitis.
Following a nearly three-month hospital stay and eight months of rehabilitation, Rachel once again learned to walk, talk and even chew. She also regained the use of her left hand, but not her left eye or left ear.
"I don't really remember it," Rachel said of the surgery and rehab. "I was too young."
However, Rachel likely will never forget the recent afternoon when she was presented with the Living Well Award by Doctors Hospital during her chorus class.
Gloria Taylor, Rachel's mother, nominated her for the award given out each quarter and sponsored by The Augusta Chronicle , 88.3 radio station WAFJ and television station WJBF (Channel 6).
The Living Well Award recognizes individuals in the Augusta area who maintain full lives despite their current or previous illnesses and inspire those around them.
An A student, Rachel believes it is her passion for knowledge that inspires her friends, not her partial blindness and deafness.
Rachel's friend struggles with her academics, but she recently took up reading for pleasure after hearing of Rachel's love for author Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. "I helped her become a reader and I think that's good," Rachel said.
Beyond her love of literature about lovesick vampires and werewolves, Rachel also belongs to the Girl Scouts, is active in her church and loves to sing. She was one of three sixth-graders at her school selected for the state honor chorus.
"At first I didn't think I would do it, but then I decided to try," she said. "What did I have to lose?"
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