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Someone You Should Know: Pilot Who Overcame Medical Challenge

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Andrew Baniecki, 19, is realizing his dream of being a licensed pilot. (CBS)

Andrew Baniecki, 19, is realizing his dream of being a licensed pilot. (CBS)

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ROMEOVILLE, Ill. (CBS) — He dreamed of being a pilot, but his health seemed to be standing in the way of his dream.

Nineteen-year-old Andrew Baniecki is someone you should know, CBS 2’s Harry Porterfield reports.

Baniecki has wanted to fly since he was a small child. But the odds were against him. He was born with spina bifida. And while he was able to walk, he had developed a bladder condition that required heavy medication. So, he could never seriously think of getting a pilot’s license.   

But Baniecki said he never considered giving up, despite the difficult obstacle.

“I was looking for that next option,” Baniecki says. 

One of the options he discovered was Dr. John Hairston, an associate professor of urology at Northwestern who pioneered using a robot in a procedure that eliminated the need for Baniecki to take medication. 

“He was at the upper limit of the medications that required to control his bladder that the FAA would allow. Really, the options had become very limited,” Hairston says.

Baniecki is 19 now and a student at Lewis University’s flight school near Joliet, where he’s working toward a pilot’s license. Baniecki is happy, and so is Hairston. 

“That’s the great part of his story,” Hairston says. “He’s going to be able to achieve his lifelong dream, and I was able to at least help him along the way.”

And Beniecke has achieved his longstanding goal.

“Now here I am, free to do what I want, and now you focus on your career, and you go right at it head on,” he said.

Did he ever dream of the day when someone would tell him, “Andy, you can fly?”

“I always had that hope,” he said.

Today, Beniecke looks forward to a future in the skies.

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