Mountains of Cerebral Palsy

Student Ambassador: Calvin Kennedy

OWEd Ambassador Since: 2008

Grade 9

School SEED Public Charter School, DC

Reflection Experience

Learning Activities

 

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For three weeks I looked at the Outings Club notice on the classroom door for the hike to a local state park. The summary included hiking up multiple rock hills. It made me incredibly uncomfortable. What would the rest of the group think if I slowed them down? Would it be another reason for kids to laugh at me? I thought about what would happen if my right leg cramped up or I became overwhelmed with falling and I was unable to hold on. I knew the other students who wrote their names on the sign-up sheet didn’t have to think about these concerns. Unlike me, they did not live with the physical obstacles that Cerebral Palsy has presented me over my lifetime.

When I am with friends it’s hard to comprehend that anything is different. In my mind there isn’t, but reminders seem to come up often. When I was born I showed no signs of Cerebral Palsy. The first indicator was at fifteen months when my doctor reported that I had strong muscle tightness in my left leg. He suggested that I have a series of tests, including a CAT Scan.

While still in my mother’s womb, a stroke damaged the brain cells on the right side of my Cerebral Cortex. This is the most outer part of the brain and is divided into two lobes. Because the brain cells on the right side of the brain control the left side of the body and vise versa, the stroke’s damage to the right side of my brain, affected the left side of my body. The severe damage to the cells prevented the signals sent throughout the nerve system to reach certain areas of my body’s left side. Mostly affected are my left leg and hand.

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The Cerebral Cortex contains the brain cells that control your personality, intelligence, motor functions, and touch sensitivity. When it is damaged, one of the results can be the condition of Cerebral Palsy. Cerebral Palsy is a condition that can greatly affect one’s muscle and body movement. Although the condition is physical, it is hard to imagine how anyone with Cerebral Palsy or any other physical condition would not let it affect their mental state as well.

There are many ways to contract Cerebral Palsy. Head trauma, brain injury during intra-uterine life, and having a stroke as in my case, are all events that can cause someone to develop Cerebral Palsy. The effects of Cerebral Palsy are far reaching, but common outcomes can be challenges with knowing how to eat, tying shoes or getting dressed. This is not the case with me, as I am able to do all of these things in a way any kid my age could. I guess I should be grateful that my Cerebral Palsy has only affected my body. Conditions of Cerebral Palsy vary and serious mental limitations are not uncommon. I can still move my legs but I cannot twist my left ankle in either direction. The fingers on my left hand cannot bend or open without a lot of energy and focus.

In school I was laughed at about my condition starting in the 4th grade. Throughout my school years I would gain more and more respect because I didn’t show others that comments about my Cerebral Palsy would get under my skin. Kids are teased for all kinds of things, but I had to really keep the hurt inside. I knew it would keep coming if I didn’t. I’ve learned that if other kids see their attacks aren’t working, they stop.

Now I’m in the 10th grade and I do not show any fear of what others think of me or how they judge me. This change started for me in the eighth grade when I joined that Outings Club trip. On that day I proved to myself that I can overcome any obstacle I earlier thought I could not. On the hike I was towards the back of our group but I’m quite sure I didn’t slow us down. When we stood at the bottom of the rock face I knew the other students were looking at me, possibly wondering, as I was. But as I climbed I felt free, like something was being lifted off of me. Climbing over huge rocks that most other people could not climb around was powerful. I looked down while on top of what was this huge mountain. Although I only looked down around seventy-five feet, somewhere in my mind was a great valley beneath me.

As our hike continued through the local state park I thought about other obstacles I had not tried or had been afraid to confront. Not only as someone with Cerebral Palsy, but just as a teenager I had so many. From that day on I never said, “I can’t do that or I can’t do this,” I only say I will try. When I was younger I thought that my Cerebral Palsy happened because God didn’t love me. I’ve since grown up with my thinking, although I still wonder about that one word question that is never truly gone, why? I now know how much worse my condition could have been, and how many others’ suffer in ways I do not know. I now think that living and growing with my Cerebral Palsy has been a test of my faith and that there are many more mountains for me to climb.