State of Mind

Keeping a damaged brain alive may be the greatest act of friendship.

By G.W. Miller III
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 5 | Posted Nov. 12, 2008

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Heart to Hardt: Daniel Curcio (left) cares for friend and roomate Yeremiah seven days a week. photo by G.W. Miller III

Keeping a damaged brain alive may be the greatest act of friendship.

Daniel Curcio strolls around the bright room decorated in domestic bliss--spice racks on the wall, stainless steel pots and pans dangling from the ceiling, and hanging over the kitchen sink, a simple white ceramic plate that reads, "HOME IS WHERE THE LOVE IS."

He holds the phone to his ear, glances in my direction, and states, "I'll send Yeremiah down to pick up the pizza."

I look at Yeremiah Hardt. He sits at the kitchen table with a smirk on his face.

"Alone?" I ask.

"Yeah," Hardt answers. "It's independence training."

And despite the picture-perfect setting and the fa�ade of normalcy, I slowly begin to understand the difficulties that cloud this unusual relationship: a five-minute trip to the corner pizza shop could be a perilous adventure.


When he was 5 years old, Hardt, now 31, tumbled into his family's frozen pool and became trapped under the ice for more than 20 minutes.

Doctors declared him dead. He spent five months in a coma.

When he finally awoke, he could barely talk and his brain failed to function properly.

"My parents refused to believe that I had a disability," Hardt says in his stilted voice, each consonant sounding as if his tongue clings to the top of his mouth for an extra split second.

They forced him to attend public schools, where he struggled, alone, in near silence. He graduated from high school at the age of 21 after years of suffering the abuses of his teenaged peers.

Until he met Curcio, Hardt was practically non-verbal for 20 years.


During Equality Forum in 2003, Curcio, a 38-year-old South Philly native and former Marine, scanned the crowd at Kahn Park, at 11th and Pine, and spotted Hardt.

"I thought it was going to be something romantic," Curcio tells me.

He realized that Hardt had a disability of some sort. But because Hardt is so quiet and affable Curcio didn't realize the extent of the damage. The two began dating.

Within a few weeks, Hardt moved into Curcio's apartment near Ninth and Clinton. The intimacy of the small apartment quickly cast a light on the severity of Hardt's neurological damage. His brain had been steadily deteriorating since his near-death experience.

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COMMENTS

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1. David said... on Dec 11, 2008 at 04:55AM

“I want to meet you more than ever. I'm very moved.”

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2. Daniel said... on Dec 13, 2008 at 10:34PM

“Thank you David! I don't know who you want to meet but both of us are on Face Book.”

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3. K. Burns said... on Dec 27, 2008 at 08:24AM

“Hello Dan, you both are very inspirational and i wish you both all the luck there is! ”

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4. Daniel said... on Dec 29, 2008 at 05:19PM

“Thanks man...Thank you for everything :) You should stop over sometime.”

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5. Me said... on Feb 5, 2009 at 08:36AM

“Why were you not receiving overtime? Is it because you were and independent or did you work for an agency? According to Pennsylvania State laws you are required to receive overtime after 40 hours, not sure what other states are but you may want to check into this. You can file a complaint with the Department of Labor. Also, Insurance is available from some home care agencies. Facts show that most PCAs do not choose the insurance and the cost is cheaper than you were paying.”

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