2009 Max Wirt

Max Wirt, graduate of South High School in Minneapolis, has been beating the odds since the day he was born. Delivered two months prematurely, doctors told his parents that his many serious physical problems wouldn't allow him to survive more than a day.

Born without most of his urinary tract, a deformed bladder, polycystic kidneys, and a brain cyst, Max has withstood 24 major surgeries, including a kidney donation from his father, four brain surgeries, two bladder augmentations and five knee surgeries. Each month, he still must have his blood drawn. To add to the difficulties, he was diagnosed with a mild form of Autism known as Asperger's Syndrome at age eight.

Max has always insisted on going to school, even when it was difficult and painful.  At times he attended in a wheelchair, on crutches, or with surgical staples and stitches in his chest, skull, abdomen, and legs.  Even with his many scars, school was the only place he really felt “normal.”

“Just being alive is absolutely excellent,” he said. “I’ve learned perseverance and to take the good with the bad.” He feels lucky that he’s had the care he’s gotten and attributes his achievements to staying positive. I’ve seen people facing the same things I have who haven’t made it.”

Through it all Max has stayed involved. He has sung in his church choir since age 5, and volunteers at the church’s summer camp each year. He also participates in Project Success and has volunteered at Children’s Hospital, where he himself spent a lot of time in surgeries and recuperation. He loves being outdoors and rides mountain bikes regularly with his mother, and works in the summer with his father, who is a carpenter.

Inspired by the doctors and teachers who have helped him, he wants to “give back” by becoming a doctor himself to “help people like I’ve been helped,” he said. “Knowing people cared about me and loved me enough to help me through all those operations gave me a positive attitude and I think that got me through problems better than the medical procedures themselves.”

In high school, Max has maintained a 3.31 GPA. He started college at Augsburg College and plans to attend medical school.

“I want to tell my story to let people know that no matter what’s going on in life, they can overcome it and be what they want to be,” he said.