Todd Schoonover is going undercover
From an early age, I was exposed to cerebral palsy. My great aunt Alice who lived with my grandparents next door has it. Growing up she would babysit me, and I still send her a mother’s day card every year. You wouldn’t know she had it from talking to her or watching her do her chores, but if you looked at her right hand you would notice the stiff angular fingers whose joints made W-shapes instead of the normal curvature. Alice also had epilepsy, so I was aware of seizures from an early age too.
When I was a teen, Alice was participating in programs put on by United Cerebral Palsy. They would pick her up and take her to meetings with other people with CP. They even got her a job with a light bulb factory. She also did craft projects, and I still have most of what she made me over the years, though a few of the ceramic pieces have been broken and reglued.
Alice fell down the stairs and broke her neck while I was a teen. While she wasn’t paralyzed, the doctors weren’t sure how she was ever able to walk before the accident and the physical therapists didn’t put in enough effort to get her walking again. So she’s been in a wheelchair ever since. I used to come home from school and transfer her over to the toilet, then clean her and put her back in the chair. I’d also help her with her physical therapy, making her stand and stretching her. That continued until I went to college, and during my sophomore year my grandmother could no longer take care of Alice so she was moved to a nursing home. It’s because of my experience with Alice that I became an EMT and paramedic. It’s why I’m also looking at becoming a nurse.
Alice wasn’t the only person in my family with CP. A younger cousin of mine on the other side of the family also has CP, and his right hand is affected too.
Cerebral Palsy is a catch-all term covering a variety of disorders that are not contagious, not hereditary, and not progressive. At one time it was theorized that it was caused by a lack of oxygen during pregnancy or childbirth, but that is only true in some of the cases. While there can be muscle and bone disorders, cognitive function may be unimpaired.
Sherlock and I met earlier this year, and I was very moved by her entry about her daughter. Adar created this goal and I was glad to take it up, because I know what good UCP does as an organization. To find out more about United Cerebral Palsy, and to make a donation, visit it here. You can also enter your zip code to find your local chapter of UCP so you can volunteer with them in person.