Cerebral Palsy, otherwise known as CP, affects 1 in 500 children around the globe. Stephanie happens to be among the minority group where she got diagnosed at an early age and had had to live with the condition entirely. She has had to bear with stressful situations due to depression and anxiety that resulted from her condition and perception from some of her peers. Her journey as a CP patient has been an inspiring story where she had to bear with physical and psychological challenges yet made to the university with a promising career. As the condition affects so many people in the world, it is essential to gain an understanding of cerebral palsy and its effects on those who get diagnosed with the disorder through Stephanie's story.
My cousin Stephanie is a twin sister of who besides all odds tries to maintain a charming smile that keeps everyone who knows her well want to continue a close bond with her. While she does not open up to many people, she has been a close friend to me and shares many secrets and is always willing to share her deep secrets with me. Lately, she narrated to me how she got endeared to a very kind male friend that almost got me jealous when I remember I am all normal yet single. From her looks, Stephanie is a lovely young lady. With her short stature, she has lively light brown eyes that look attractive even without makeup. Her olive skin is complemented by the beautiful jewelry she likes wearing most of the times when she is at work as an event planner. I have a liking to the sparkling diamond ring she wears on her index finger together with her glittering braces and necklaces that must costed her a big deal of money.
Steph was born with Spastic Quadriplegia and Cerebral Palsy, a condition that restricts the motion in her arms and legs, Stephanie, rendering in a wheelchair most of the times. She has consequently labeled it Mercedes due to its comfort. The wheelchair has even been modified to accommodate her chubby Chihuahua that keeps her company when out of a human company. Stephanie faced many obstacles in her life, especially in her younger years. Diagnosed in early childhood, CP is the most common physical disability found in children, even today, in first world countries with the best medical care ever seen. Before Stephanie fully understood and appreciated herself, she used to experience unhappiness, depression, and loneliness. She found it difficult to come in terms with her disability especially having a healthy twin sister. She felt as if her youth was being taken especially not being able to do what her sister could do. Stephanie spent countless weekends watching her sister go out with her friends while she sat in at home. This damaged her mental well-being, and she developed social anxiety because she felt as if people only spoke to her because she was in a wheelchair and they felt terrible. It is just after she got a positive attitude that she started living positively.
Cerebral Palsy varies in its overall effects, ranging from barely noticeable to extremely severe and to this day remains one of the life's medical mysteries. Throughout her early teen years, Stephanie faced such a rocky road when she started Totten Ville High School. She discovered that staying with her disability was very challenging at times because she could not do roles that her peers could do, especially since her sister could. She constantly needed help in her basic activities such as eating, completing assignments, personal effects, among others. Steph recalls one moment when she was hungry and needed assistance from her peers. As she struggled to hold her cup and take some soup, it spilled on her clothes. It is then that one of her kind peers offered to assist her.
"Hey Stephanie, can I assist you with your cup?"
"Sure," she replied.
Ann was a kind girl who always assisted her in many activities.
"Have you finished with your homework?"
"Oh, I have not started with it, but don't mind, my assistance will help to complete it in the evening," she replied.
Stephanie was one kind of girl who did not like being shown a lot of sympathy despite her degenerated neural function. She knew that needed to put more effort into her activities to balance her studies and therapy.
Stephanie was living in fear with her disability. Her mental state was weak because she became depressed due to her sister having a large group of friends and was never invited to hang out with people outside of her home. She lived on social media lacking social skills suffering from social anxiety when strangers and students would try to talk with her. This mental issue took a toll on her family as well, and her parents made her attend counseling. Counseling allowed her to open up to her family. She did have a lot of unintentional resentment toward her twin sister; they were lacking a bond of friends living in their own separate lives. Counseling allowed the twins to open up to one another and help support one another. Her twin sister Amanda started helping her a lot more as her high school career went on. Her sister realized the importance of including her in activities that she could do like going bowling or the movies to allow her to enjoy her teenage years and gain a social life.
"Stephanie, can we get to the theatres tonight? Daddy has paid two tickets for us!"
"No, today I have a novel to compete," Stephanie said coldly.
"Come on Sis, don't be like that. You can complete the book at another time. Please let's go and have some fun, remember tomorrow is your birthday and if you behave like this, you might end up not enjoying the event." Amanda told her in a somewhat caring way.
"Okay, will go but remember I need to finish up a chapter tonight." That night, the twins had a fantastic time together.
Throughout her high school career, her life was changing for the better. She made a goal to attend psychical therapy inside and outside of school. Since it was costly, her family did not have health insurance to afford the treatment. Stephanie became friendly with the school therapist, and he made arrangements to train her outside of school with his equipment. Her physical therapist had a unique machine referred to as a Rifton Tram, which allowed Stephanie to sit, stand and walk twice a week. Using a device resembling a harness to support her, they got her up and moving on a treadmill to build her muscular endurance and strength. She then got familiarized to the Rifton Tram, a battery functioned device on wheels that she could propel on her own. Harnessed from a seated to a standing position and she could hold on to support rails on the machine and walk forward as one would walk with a walker.
Stephanie was tired of crying and feeling sorry for herself and she needed to accept her physical condition. She grew to realize that she is not the only one in her situation, so she wanted to make the best of it and cherish it. She then made an individual choice to make something out of her life and not let her disability control her. She set her goal to walk at her graduation. This hard work and dedication not only made Stephanie physically stronger but mentally stronger.
With the backing of her family, her therapist and the special device known as Rifton Tram, Stephanie was able to sit, position upright and walk with the minimal backing at her graduation. The moment was intense, filled with a mixture of laughs and tears.
"Are you sure you want to do this?"
"Sure, "she replied she replied enthusiastically.
We had to rehearse together for the big event. When her name got called, it was her turn to walk to the front. Motivated by the encouragement of her loved ones, she gracefully walked to the front with the assistance of the Rifton Tram. As soon as she got her certificate, I rushed to the front to aid her to take back her sit since I noticed the feebleness in her legs.
"You made it!" I shouted happily
"Yes, I did it on my own," she said it in overwhelming joy.
Her sister and parents were on occasion too. After three names got called, it was time for Amanda to take to the stage. Stephanie also received a special achievement award along with a standing ovation from everyone. About a week later Stephanie was able to attend her senior prom at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan, walking on herself. She completed her studies at Totten Ville High School with a 95 average. Her ambition and inspiration made us all proud, a moment full of joy and happy tears.
As her physical strength and mentality get stronger as she is now a young adult. Stephanie is, however, suffering from other controllable health issues such as gastroesophageal reflux. The condition occurs when acid from the stomach goes into the esophagus making eating uncomfortable and challenging. She is also experiencing irritable bowel syndrome of unknown cause but is continually getting better. Additionally, she cannot eat certain foods, and it is hard for her stomach to digest them properly. With the continued therapy, many CP signs are subsiding, and she is continually leading a better life.
Today, Stephanie is currently attending St. Johns University and is studying towards a profession as a community worker and advocate for the physically challenged besides operating her event planning business. She continues with her physical therapy three days a week. Right now she is working on the treadmill and the bike (MOTOmed). The treadmill is helping her progress towards a posterior walker that comes from behind her. The MOTOmed stimulates her legs and arms and her blood flow and detects muscle spasm and prevents blood clots. At the moment, her goal is to use the walker instead of sitting in a wheelchair.
Growing up Stephanie's disabilities helped inspire me to want to make a difference in a person's daily needs. Watching her strain and not be able to do what all of her other cousins were doing took a toll on me as I got older and therefore had to put a hand in. When I stumbled across the field of speech pathology, all I knew was that I wanted to help kids communicate better. When I would watch Stephanie's therapist work with her, I instantly become inspired by her progression. Her journey of having a positive outlook on life continues every day with the help of everyone's encouragement. Stephanie has created a Facebook page called "Life in Wheels" for her supporters to show how she is progressing in physical therapy. She created this page for people with cerebral palsy to see that if you put your mind to something, you can achieve anything. Her self-awareness has led her to accept her life for what it is and not fall victim to accept negative energy around her. Stephanie is a woman of courage and inspiration that I am proud to call my cousin.
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