BYU student continues to defy the odds

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Editor’s note: The author grew up knowing Akim Pittman and has watched his story unfold.

At age 4 he was hit by a truck and pronounced dead at the scene. Today he’s a student and aspiring football player at Brigham Young University.

Akim Pittman is a student at BYU with an incredible survivor story. Photo by Maddi D.
Akim Pittman is a student at BYU with an incredible survivor story. (Photo by Maddi Dayton)

Akim Pittman, a 23-year-old BYU freshman from Cranston, R.I., has overcome substantial trials and continues to prove people wrong every day.

When Pittman was 4 years old he was run over by a truck, breaking his ribs and cracking his head open. Doctors told his mother there was no hope for his survival. His mother told the doctors to keep trying to save her son.

“They said I wasn’t breathing, and so they wouldn’t take me to the hospital,” Pittman said. “But my mom kept pressing, and they told her it was a lost cause and I should just be put in a body bag. Then at the hospital they said, ‘Most likely this kid will end up like a vegetable.’”

Pittman’s mother was investigating The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the time and called on local missionaries and the bishop for help. The missionaries gave Pittman a blessing of healing right before he was taken off life support.

“I was on life support, and they decided to take me off, and I was breathing on my own,” Pittman said. “They told me the next morning when I woke up I (sprang) up and said, ‘I want my toast!’ My mom has always connected that with the bread of life.”

Tawa Pittman, Akim’s mother, came to Rhode Island as a teenager from war-torn Liberia. She said her son’s accident was very traumatic and one she would never wish upon any other mother. But the experience brought her family closer together and increased her faith.

“The impact on us will never go away,” Tawa Pittman said. “But at the time I was beginning to grow strong in church, and I trusted that God would help us.”

Alexandra Hild, a junior studying marketing, heard Akim Pittman tell his story and was blown away. She found his words to be inspiring and unbelievable.

“What a nice guy,” Hild said. “I never would’ve guessed that he’s overcome so much in his life. What a powerful testament to the priesthood and God’s power. He’s a living miracle.”

Pittman was placed in special education classes in first grade because the accident affected his ability to perform well academically and socially. He finished high school taking advanced placement classes as a star on the football team.

“I love football — my team knew me for being the hitter,” Pittman said. “When I made a tackle, I made a big impact.”

Football is Pittman’s passion. While playing in high school he learned to count on his teammates. Pittman compared this understanding to his own trials in life. He realized his childhood accident would make life more difficult, but with the help of his mother and church leaders, he could achieve greatness.

“I’ve always wanted to come to BYU, and my dream was to one day play football here,” Pittman said. “This is my first semester here, and I’m really liking it.”

Pittman is working hard every day to get in shape to fulfill his dream of becoming a part of the BYU football team. He is studying exercise science and plans to get into physical therapy so he can return to his high school and motivate students to do well academically.

“I started out with lower-level classes, and a lot of those kids kind of give up on their education,” Pittman said. “I feel like kids should strive, and I want to motivate the kids to do better. They have the potential, but they give up on themselves.”

Pittman grew up in a single-parent home with a loving and inspiring mother. When others told Pittman who he could and could not be, his mother helped him to prove everyone wrong.

“That’s always been my thing — proving the odds wrong and being more than people told me I was going to be,” Pittman said. “I’m trying to be my best, and I want to help people believe in themselves.”

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