, Newburyport, MA

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October 11, 2013

'My kids inspired me'

Merrimac resident beats the odds and succeeds at college


Three more episodes of running away left him homeless and on the streets at age 12. He only finished eighth grade but did educate himself informally by reading a stolen copy of an encyclopedia.

“I also spent a lot of time with my grandmother’s writing, which gave me the inspiration to write myself, even though I never met her,” he said.

Academics took a back seat for Augustonovich as he worked to support his family, which after divorce and remarriage swelled from three to five children.

His story took a dramatic turn when at the age of 37 he began having episodes of losing consciousness.

Augustonovich was working one night finishing a roofing job when he was overcome by sensations that he identified as anxiety.

“I thought I was having anxiety because I was high up there, but I was actually having a heart attack,” he said.

Augustonovich suffered several fainting episodes and was misdiagnosed several times before heart disease was confirmed. An incapacitating heart condition was remedied by the implantation of a pacemaker.

But Augustonovich did not trust his new equipment and had a long period of withdrawal into the safety of his bedroom following his surgery.

“I thought life was over at that point. I locked myself in my room,” he said. “I was afraid to go out anywhere. I thought whatever I did was going to destroy the pacemaker. So I lay around in my room for a couple of years. I gained 107 pounds. It was horrible.”

His children were ultimately his saving inspiration.

“But I noticed my kids doing the same thing,” he said. “None of them were working, they were sleeping all day. My oldest two had dropped out of school. If I don’t do something, the kids won’t ever do anything.”

As Augustonovich tells it, in the spring of 2010, he woke up one morning and enrolled at NECC.

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