With so much at stake in the 2020 presidential election, 19-year-old Horace McFarlane, Jr. wants his voice to be heard as he grapples with rebuilding his body and his mind.
A brain bleed and his leukemia, which is currently in remission, robbed him of basic skills such as walking and talking. Part of his skull was surgically removed to staunch the internal bleeding.
"He had difficulty walking, he had difficulty feeding himself and dressing himself and participating in the typical activities of a teenage male," said his occupational therapist, Kathryn Hepp, who works with him at Blythedale Children's Hospital.
"Now he is walking independently without the use of an assistive device, he's dressing himself independently, he's participating in all of his classroom assignments., He's feeding himself and opening containers in order to feed himself," she said.
For McFarlane, voting is important to him because he wasn't able to register a year ago, when he turned 18 and was legally entitled to cast a ballot.
"I am excited to vote because it's my first time doing it," he said. "When I'm filling out my application, it actually makes me feel more independent."
Racial equality and climate change are issues that weigh heavily on his mind, and he is carefully researching where candidates stand on those serious concerns.
"We got to choose carefully who we pick," he said.
McFarlane's social sciences teacher, Robert Troy, says the teen is keenly aware that "If you want to bring about change, one of the best ways to do this is through voting.
"I think Horace certainly understood that, and that's what's led him to this whole registering and wanting to take place in this upcoming election."
The young man's understanding surpasses his years. He has come back from being on the brink of death, relearned how to walk and talk and now lives in the middle of a global pandemic.
His constant goal is returning to normalcy, and he wishes that for the nation as well.
"I hope for this country to be back to normal. I hope for this whole crisis and for this whole pandemic to be over so we don't have to go through this again," he said.