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Hastings teen publishes first book

Nate Munene wasn't supposed to live. That's what his doctor said when he was just a baby. Now, the 14-year-old is telling his story in the form of a new book, "Miracles Still Happen." The book was published Jan. 20, by WestBow Press.

Munene is the son of another Hastings author, Ann Makena. He was diagnosed with multicystic hydrocephalus, a condition that caused half of his brain and its fluid drainage system to form improperly. The condition led him down a childhood filled with 20 brain surgeries as well as countless hospital visits. His first surgery was when he was just 5 days old, Makena said, and his last was in late 2012.

Nate's book discusses all that.

"It's about my journey," he said, "with battles with seizures and having 20 brain surgeries and how I coped."

He said he was inspired to write because of his mother, who has, so far, published two books about her own life.

"All these days I've seen my mom ... writing books," he said.

As he watched her go through the process, he started thinking back on his own experiences.

"I thought maybe I should write something to encourage others," he said.

 In November 2015, he approached his mother with the idea.

"The day I received my book, he tells me, 'Mom, I want to write my story too,'" Makena recalled.

It wasn't the first indication she had that her son had a knack for writing. He was already writing in journals, she said, something he's been doing from a very young age. When he told her he wanted to write a book, she got him a notebook and pen and they got to work. Makena helped come up with the backbone of the book's narrative and organizing it. She also helped shape out sections that dealt with the technicalities of his medical experience. But when it came to writing the content itself, that was almost all Nate's project.

"At least 70 percent of the book is his own writing," she said.

She said that in each writing session, she would give her son a topic (for example: what it was like to go through surgery) and he would then write a chapter all about that topic.

Besides covering his medical journey and his own thoughts and coping strategies, the book also covers more lighthearted moments.

"In this book I wrote about ... all these funny memories in my life," Nate said.

Like the time he was sitting outside their Hastings home and a wild bird landed on the top of his head.

But overall, the book is intended to inspire. Nate grew up hearing people tell him what he couldn't do because of his medical condition. They said he wouldn't be able to function normally. They said it would be hard for him to get a job. They said he wouldn't be able to attend school normally.

But with the support and dedication of his mother, the care of doctors and the efforts of his teachers, he's proven the naysayers wrong.

Nate is currently an eighth-grader at Crosswinds Arts & Science School in Woodbury. He does tasks at home. He's an artist as well as an author. And he has high hopes for his future. He used to want to be a doctor, and then a professional artist.

"Now I think I want to be an author," he said.

Nate said he hopes his book helps other families going through similar challenges.

"I know that there are sick children out there," he said.

And he's also seen parents who give up on their children when the challenges get to be overwhelming. He's hoping he can convince them to stick it out.

"Sooner or later, their kids will be well," he said.

Nate and his mother thanked the family and friends who have stood by them throughout his tough childhood and especially thanked their medical team: pediatric neurologist Katherine Nickels, pediatric neurosurgeon Nicholas Wetjen, neurologist Breningstall Galen and pediatrician Anna Milz, among many other doctors, nurses and medical personnel who worked hard to help Nate.

"We also give a lot of appreciation for Crosswinds Arts & Science School in Woodbury, whose principals, teachers and general school structure has very well catered for Nate's needs," Makena said.

Nate's book is available online and