This guest blog comes from Kim Collins, a 28-year old substitute teacher from Little Rock, AK. Kim shares with us her personal journey to self-acceptance, and how she realized that having Cerebral Palsy (CP) was her gift.
I was born in July of 1987 two months premature to a very young mother. I originally weighed 3 pounds 3 ounces, but in the process of being flown to Little Rock Children’s hospital I lost all bodily fluids dropping my weight to 1 pound 3 ounces. I was not formally diagnosed with Spastic Cerebral Palsy until the age of three. Doctors told me that having CP was a result of being in the birth canal too long. Once diagnosed, I was not expected to meet any milestones, essentially being labeled as “failure to thrive”. This meant that being able to walk, talk, or even feed myself were probably out of the question. I was and still am very fortunate to have a loving mother and family. Although the diagnosis sounded grim, and after the initial shock, my mother fought on her own to get me in to see the proper orthopedic specialists.
Cerebral Palsy mostly affects the right side of my body and both sides below my waist. I’ve had 13 different corrective surgeries. I spent nearly every summer in cast correcting various issues. This is due to the fact that I was born premature the muscles in my feet and my legs were underdeveloped causing the bones in my ankles to shift into incorrect positions. I had hip grafts placed in my feet to restructure my ankles among other things. My last surgery was the summer before I began college in 2006. I believe the moments in between each of those major surgeries have made me the individual that I am.
My mother treated me like any other child and that helped tremendously. Aside from the surgeries, which were required in our minds to improve my quality of life, I was just your average child; I played outside, went to school, back talked, and when my brother came along when I was two, we were double trouble! Even though I could only crawl on my hands and knees I gave him, my mom, and everyone a run for their money. As a teenager, being “different” was hard to understand. I always asked: “Of all people, why did I have to be different?” I shed many a tear, and I wished that there were a magic pill, or some way for me to have new legs. With my mother’s help, I learned to embrace my differences. I consider myself to be exceptionally creative when it comes to doing everyday activities. I may not get dressed or cook meals like the average person, I have to get creative in the way I manage to do it.
Never let a medical diagnosis determine your life and the goals you have set for yourself. Had my mother settled for the diagnosis I was given, I would be bedridden with around the clock assistive care. Instead I am well educated, physically active, and socially accepted by many. I work, travel, have healthy relationships, and would hardly describe my life with the words Cerebral Palsy or having a disability. Individuals can be rude, but I find mostly it is because of their lack of knowledge and sense of fear to ask. I encourage people often to ask me any questions they want, because if I do not give them the opportunity to ask, how will they learn? If I can educate others I can essentially promote acceptance. Always look for the silver lining. In the toughest of situations, decide what the positive is, no matter how big or small. It may be the only thing that can get you through. Never be afraid or too stubborn to ask for help. I used to be this way and still have a tendency to do so sometimes. I had someone tell me once if “I do not let others help me how were they supposed to learn how?” So next time you ask for help just remember that you are teaching someone and giving them the opportunity to give back.
My lifetime accomplishment as of now is the fact that I did not let my disability dictate my attitude and overall my life. I have accomplished a high school diploma, an associate’s degree, and a bachelor’s degree. I walked the stage on each occasion with the help of friends. This is a feat that was never supposed to be achieved. I am a walking talking testimony. I would like to think I would still be the humble sweet optimistic person I am without my disability, but a big part of me says God knows what he is doing when he gives us this lifelong trial. I would not take the pill. Having this disability is my tool, and God has given me a purpose. Fortunately, over time he has given me the attitude and support system to complete this purpose. I am a sister, daughter, teacher, friend, girlfriend, granddaughter, and more. Then I have Cerebral Palsy. It does not define me, and it does not have to define you.