Guest Post: My Life with Cerebral Palsy10:58 PM
A lot of you know that my wonderful husband, Michael, has cerebral palsy. He generously agreed to share his story on my blog.
If there's one thing that I've learned about life that I know is true, it's that your hardships are your greatest asset, because strength and grow come only through continuous effort and struggle.
I've had three surgeries in my life. The first was ten minutes after I was born. The doctors told my parents that I had pneumonia and only a 10% chance to live. They said I would die within the hour and that the only way to save me was to use a new operational procedure never done on a newborn in the Northwest before, a procedure that was certified only 3 days prior to my birth, and that worked great on sheep. The procedure is called ECMO.
ECMO stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. In layman terms, it is a machine designed to oxygenate the blood and return that blood to the patient, thus acting as the lungs until the pneumonia has run its course. I was on it for an entire week, and on April 11th, I was able to breathe on my own, and my mom held me for the very first time.
The years that followed were filled with regular hospital visits. At the age of 6, I had my second surgery: a rhizotomy designed to destroy problematic nerve roots in the spinal cord, most often to relieve the symptoms of neuromuscular conditions such as spastic diplegia and other forms of spastic cerebral palsy. After 3 months of physical therapy, I felt as though I could finally walk just like everyone else (although, to the observer, it probably didn't look that way). I had my third and final surgery when I was nearly 10, and at that point, the doctors performed all the surgeries they could. I continued to visit Shriner's Hospital on a regular basis until I was 18.
What was the most challenging by far was not the psychical therapy or surgeries themselves, but instead, coping with school, bullying, and many unanswered questions as to why everyone else wasn't like me. Questions such as, "Why can everyone walk better and run faster than I can? Why can't I make friends? Why do others not want to hang around me? Why am I falling down all the time?" And so on... I got used to being alone. The friends I did manage to make seemed only to be my friends at the urging of their sympathetic parents. To comfort me, my parents repeatedly told me that I was different, and that I was special in ways that no one else was. It was with this idea in mind that I was able to be a happy and positive kid growing up... until I finally figured out why I was different. The reason I was different was not because this just randomly happens to people, but because God allowed it to happen. The one who controls the whole universe and everything in it had allowed me to go through life alone, had me struggle through hardship and pain everyday, and I couldn't understand why.
After many years of bitterness and anger, it finally came to me:
If there is suffering and pain of any kind, there is also the strength and will to overcome it. God is not the author of the pain or suffering. He instead allows the suffering in order to give us the strength and will to overcome it if we ask for it and have faith. In this, God reveals his true nature, and our acknowledgment of that in word and action is what glorifies him. He is perfection, and we exist to know and mirror that perfection. The more we struggle, the more we grow, and the more we grow relying on him, the more we become like him. To know him and be like him is the true meaning of happiness.
Once I embraced that as truth; namely, that my hardships and suffering was, in fact, a blessing in the form of knowing my Creator, the anger and bitterness I had for many years disappeared. Having cerebral palsy has also allowed me to empathize with other's hardships without them having to say word. It has given me the gift of perseverance in whatever I do, and the determination to see things through come what may. It's given me the most wonderful wife I could ever ask for. It was our different hardships in life that brought us together. As Allie was able to empathize with my cerebral palsy because of her gastroparesis, I was able to empathize with her, because of my cerebral palsy. Allie has always told me that if I didn't have cerebral palsy, she wouldn't have married me because I would have been so full of myself without it. She also loves the many quirks it has given me. It has played a large role in who I have become, and I wouldn't be here without it.
In essence, having cerebral palsy is the greatest thing that could have ever happened to me.