I was born on September 4th, 1978 in Northridge Hospital in Southern California. My parents, Daniel and Denise Sands, named me Mathew Dean Sands. “Matthew” was my fathers favorite book in the bible. Apparently my mother did not have as much knowledge of the bible, thus the reason for only one “T” in my name. I share the same middle name as my Grandfather on my Father’s side.
My mother was just 20 years old when I was born and my father only a year older than her. I was also greeted by a 2 1/2 year old sister, Christina Marie Sands. I am not certain that having a little brother was very exciting for her. When I was brought home from the hospital, my parents found her writing on my forehead with a pen. When asked why she did this to her new brother, her response was “I don’t like the baby”. I like to think she has warmed up to my presence since then. Actually, she has become one of the most important people to me on this planet. I’ll get more into that later.
When I was 13 months old, I woke up in the middle of the night to a swollen right knee. My Mom had been concerned because I had recently started walking, but began to crawl again. I took a fall off my rocking horse and my Mother was worried that I injured myself. So, I was taken to a hospital and was told that I had an infection in my knee. But my parents were convinced that there was something else wrong. They took me to Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles (C.H.L.A.), where I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (J.R.A.).The disease quickly progressed and I soon had Arthritis in all of my joints. Throughout my childhood, I spent many months in the hospital recovering from surgeries and undergoing intense physical therapy sessions. C.H.L.A. became my second home.
I grew up in a yellow, three-bedroom home in Mission Hills. For those of you unfamiliar with Southern California, this is in the San Fernando Valley of the greater Los Angeles Area. My Parents, my sister and I lived in this house until 1988 (I was almost 10 years old).
Our house had a front yard with grass and a porch with a lot of Ivy growing up the posts. My bedroom window was at the front of the house and my sisters bedroom was next to mine. Our parents were in the back of the house on the other side of the kitchen. We had a good sized backyard that was fenced in for the dogs and a detached garage that was eventually transformed into a music studio. I often played out back when my cousins came over.
The house next door to us was like a jungle. There were so many gardens with beautiful flowers all year long. I remember picking the little white ones next to our driveway and bringing them to my Mother. I also remember the house at the end of the street that looked haunted. I never saw anyone go in or out. Then there was the abandoned house a few houses down from us. We had fun in there.
It was a fun neighborhood to grow up in with a lot of kids to play with. My sister and the other kids would ride their scooters and bicycles around the neighborhood. Since I was unable to bend my knees, I would sit my little butt down on my little red skateboard. With my legs out on front of me, I would push myself along with my hands. I rode on the sidewalk and wore gloves so that my hands wouldn’t get blisters. I was able to keep up with the other kids pretty well.
The most fun childhood game was when we played “Town”. All of the neighborhood kids would setup their own home business and open it up to the other children. For example, Brian would often have an arcade since his garage was well equipped with games. Give him a dollar and you could go play games for 15 minutes or so. Another neighbor, Steve, would usually go to the corner store to buy a bunch of candy and setup a restaurant in his backyard. One time, I remember him performing for his guests by lip-singing to Billy Idol. My sister usually ran a hotel at our house, renting out her and my bedrooms by the minute. Looking back, it sounds a bit scandalous. But I was often the local sheriff, so I kept things in line and often guarded my sisters cash register from the local robbers.
I’d hang out with the other kids, but my sister was my best friend. Due to joint pain, there were many days that I was unable to run the streets and had to entertain myself at home. When I was very young I played with “Little People” and “Hot Wheels”. Sometimes, my sister and I would dance around lip-singing and acting out music videos to our favorite songs. We would rarely argue. In fact, I think even our parents would agree that we were very well behaved children. I can only remember a few arguments between us.
I had weekly visits to my doctor in Hollywood and spent many summers in the hospital there. My sister was right along side me during this and I look back and realize how much that helped. Growing up with J.R.A. was not easy and I know that it must have been very difficult for the other members of my family.