I’m just me

Andie, 23

I did what some said I never would. Born 7 weeks premature after a very traumatic birth, I was lucky to live as it was. As I grew, I was simply not reaching the milestones a baby normally would. I couldn’t sit up, crawl or walk without help. Diagnosed with Spastic Diplegia Cerebral Palsy at approximately one and a half years of age, I was sentenced to a life in a wheelchair unable to walk.

As a kid my family never treated me any different and I understand why now. I was never wrapped in cotton wool. I was Andie first and foremost. Cerebral Palsy was and always has been a small part of me. If I wanted to ride a bike, my parents smiled and had one fitted with foot straps to keep my feet in place. If I wanted to climb a tree, my dad would lift me up and put me on a branch. If I wanted to dance, I got in my walking frame and off I went. I was just me.

School was a different story. I was the first. The first ‘disabled kid’ My school didn’t have ramps, elevators, nothing. This was all put in for me as I paved the way for those who came after me in primary school especially. I had teachers who were discriminatory and kids who teased. Why? Because I couldn’t walk.

As a kindergartener who had no fear or shame at the time, I’d hobble over with my two walking sticks or my frame and ask to play. The response I’d get was a look as if they thought I had two heads and a flat out ‘No’. Instead of getting mad, I hatched a plan. After many surgeries and Botox injections I knew I was ready. My thoughts weren’t centred around fear or how my body would cope. Simply, “If I am going to get friends and make others comfortable around me, I need to learn to walk”. So I did just that.

Without telling anyone – not my parents, not my doctors, therapists, not anyone, I grabbed a jewellery box from my dresser, put it in the middle of the room and told myself to walk from my bed to the box over and over. I did it. I’ve had to learn to walk at least 7 times since then, retraining my body after every surgery, but that day started it all.

I now look back on my school days and realise the kids weren’t cruel or malicious. They just saw a girl who was different when they were too young to comprehend something so big. They just thought “What do we do with this?” I believe if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have walked at all, so today I thank them.

Today I am 23 years old with a university degree, a partner, and a job I love. Someone once said I “suffer from Cerebral Palsy”. My first thought was “I don’t suffer from it; I live with it”. Yes, it sucks sometimes, a lot of the time, but it’s a small part of my life. I’m just me.

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