Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond befriended South Carolina native Ethan Brown after seeing Brown’s prayer request on the Christian website Unashamed Athletes in 2012. Brown had been diagnosed with neurofibromatosis (NF), a disorder that makes its victims highly susceptible to tumors.
Desmond began interacting with Brown via Twitter and, in April 2012, invited him to a game in Atlanta. Since then, the two have continued to correspond multiple times a week. In March, the 22-year-old Brown called Desmond “the big brother I never had.”
This winter, Brown’s condition worsened. Tumors formed on his brain stem, his spine and his hands. They surfaced inside and outside his body. They compressed his brain stem. He required three brain surgeries. The operations left him with symptoms of a stroke victim. He needs a wheelchair. His speech slurs. It is difficult for him to swallow.
At a Braves game last year, Ethan asked Desmond about his tattoos. Desmond asked Ethan if he had any, and Ethan told him he did not.
“Would you get one if I got one?” Desmond asked.
Ethan agreed. Desmond created a coat-of-arms design that held meaning for both of them: a shield made of four puzzle pieces, the symbol for NF research. Deer antlers because Brown loves to hunt. Baseball bats for Desmond. A cross. A motto: “End NF.”
Desmond watched over FaceTime as an artist etched the tattoo on Ethan’s biceps. Sometime this year, Desmond will have the same design inked on his body.
Desmond, whose tattoo artist lives in San Francisco, got his matching tattoo done during the Nationals’ recent road trip. Desmond wore three-quarter length sleeves for all four games of the Giants series, but his new ink was visible during Washington’s game at St. Louis last Friday.
It wasn’t until Tuesday’s game that many fans, myself included, got a good look at Desmond’s tattoo. Brown tweeted a side-by-side comparison during the game and suggested he’ll get some additional ink if Desmond finishes his career in Washington.
— Ethan Whosoever (@EthanBrown65) June 17, 2014
— Jayson Werth’s Beard (@JWerthsBeard) June 17, 2014
People saw desi’s new tat. We talked about it & he came up with it. I had say too. In the spot I have left, if he retires a nat I’ll do a w
— Ethan Whosoever (@EthanBrown65) June 18, 2014
Very cool move, Ian.