After medical emergency, Eagle Scout says “Scouting brought out the best in me”

A photo of Eagle Scout Samarth Kunhody

It was July 2022, the summer after his junior year of high school, and Samarth Kunhody was riding high.

Samarth was well on his way to earning the rank of Eagle, having completed his Eagle Scout service project as a member of Troop 264 in San Jose, California, in the Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council, a few months earlier. He was spending part of his summer vacation trying to determine to which college he’d be taking his unique talents.

Samarth had a passion for mathematics, data science and predictive analytics. Outside of Scouting, he spent much of his time volunteering for organizations that help ensure that disadvantaged children have the same access to educational opportunities as everyone else.

His Eagle Scout service project involved organizing a series of electronic waste collection events that benefitted the Closing the Divide Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing computer accessibility among low-income families.

He was looking for a college that would provide the right fit for him and his family while also offering a strong program in his field of choice: data science.

He was looking forward to his board of review, then his court of honor, then his high school graduation. He planned on remaining involved with Troop 264 as a registered adult so he could help young Scouts have the same experiences in Scouting that he had.

Samarth was near the end of a tour of different colleges in Southern California when he developed a headache. His parents thought perhaps he was worn out from their time in the sun over the previous few days.

They were on their way to dinner when the headache got worse. Eventually, the pain became so excruciating that his parents called 911.

Their son, it turns out, was having a stroke.

And just like that, all of his plans had changed.

A long recovery ahead

A brain scan revealed that a congenital condition had caused Samarth to suffer a massive hemorrhage. Doctors at Miller’s Children Hospital in Long Beach determined that he was born with a brain arteriovenous malformation, a tangle of blood vessels that disrupts the regular connections between arteries and veins.

In Samarth’s case, the vessels had ruptured, causing hemiplegia — a weakness on one side of the body.

His condition was very, very serious.

Initial surgery to relieve the issue was successful, but Samarth’s parents could only sit by their son’s side as he spent the next 10 days in a coma.

After a second surgery, Samarth would spend the next four months recovering.

Around the time he should have been starting his senior year of high school, Samarth was learning to walk again.

When clinicians were trying to assess Samarth’s basic cognitive abilities, they asked him to name his favorite candy bars. Being the son of two first-generation immigrants from India, Samarth struggled to answer the question.

He had no problem, however, answering a different question: What are the 12 points of the Scout Law?

Samarth said later he feels strongly that the concepts he had learned and practiced in Scouting made it possible for him to endure and recover from the most difficult challenge of his young life.

Samarth (in the Class A uniform) with his Eagle Scout service project volunteers

Continuing to recover

In March 2023, Samarth arrived at the Centre for Neuro Skills clinic in San Francisco in a wheelchair. Eight months after his stroke, he could still only walk five minutes at a time before experiencing overwhelming pain and fatigue.

“I didn’t want to be stuck in a wheelchair my whole life,” Samarth says in a story posted to the Centre for Neuro Skills website. “I wanted to live as close to a normal life as possible.”

While recovering, he was able to continue his schoolwork. He graduated from high school with the rest of his class in May 2023, walking across the stage to thunderous applause from the entire auditorium.

His physical therapist said Samarth showed remarkable commitment and dedication.

Samarth firmly believes that Scouting had a lot to do with that.

“Scouting brought out the best in me, and helped me prepared for this adversity,” he says.

Samarth’s court of honor was held in June 2023, 10 months after his stroke. He’s now officially an Eagle Scout.

Samarth has just completed his freshman year at the University of Washington, where he’s studying informatics — the study, design and development of information technology for the good of people, organizations and society. His goal is to pursue a career in data science within the music industry.

He continues to be involved with Troop 264 as an assistant Scoutmaster.

His wheelchair, for the most part, sits unused in his apartment.

Samarth says he has some advice for other youth faced with significant challenges.

“Surround yourself with positivity: friends, family and thoughts,” he says. “Do something you love doing. Adversity will give you an opportunity for growth and inner strength.”

Special thanks to Michael Gabler, the vice president of operations at the Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council, and Harold and Kathleen Hendrickson, also council-level volunteers, who collected most of the quotes and details used in this story. Photos courtesy of the Kunhody family.

About Aaron Derr 468 Articles
Aaron Derr is the senior editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines, and also a former Cubmaster and Scouts BSA volunteer.