Austin Brotman talks with friends while writing notes for seniors during a swim meet at JSerra in San Juan Capistrano on Wednesday, April 12, 2017. (Photo by Matt Masin, Orange County Register, SCNG)

He dreamed of being perfect.
Of the 2 million-plus students who took the ACT college readiness exam in 2016, only about 2,200 got a perfect score. That’s about one-tenth of 1 percent. Still, he set out to do it. He took ACT prep. He tried to relearn punctuation. He fretted over grammar.
Since his earliest days, his mother remembers, he had always chased perfection.
But what is perfect, really?
Austin Brotman was once a 15-year-old kid, a muscular swimmer at JSerra High, an academic whiz kid with the grades and the drive to set his sights on medical school. He was tan and fit and popular. “The girls,” his mother Shelley said, “had just started to notice.”
That was then.
And now … His legs sometimes burn mysteriously in the middle of the night, worse pain than he could have ever imagined. He can’t feel his feet. His fingers have begun to atrophy. His goal is …