Ever since I can remember, I have been wanting to get around and go places. This might have something to do with moving being a big part of my childhood. My dad recently retired from the Army, so I was able to travel and see a different part of the country every time we were transferred to a new Base.
I was born in Japan. About three months later, my parents and I moved to Colorado. There, my two younger sisters made their appearances.
Seldom do I let my physical disability (quadriplegic spastic CP) interfere with my perpetual goal of being on the move. In Colorado, after I somewhat mastered the art of rolling, I discovered that this was a relatively fast and efficient mode of travel for my little body.
One day, a red and white infant walker was brought home. I was excited when my parents placed me in the sling seat and let me try moving around this new way. I took off, and was in the walker most of the time, until I grew too big for the little seat. Whatever mischief I couldn't get into myself, I enlisted my little sisters to help me with. Oh, the memories!
When I started school, I thought the whole day was fun, but I liked recess the best. (Who doesn't?) Then, I was either pushed on a swing or down the slide. But the best times were when we rode the merry-go-round fast.
After Kindergarten, we moved to Kentucky. There, I got my first motorized chair. The small wheelchair had separate motors for each rear wheel, and didn't go very fast, but I thoroughly enjoyed my new freedom, and thought I was hot stuff. So did my new neighborhood friends. Roller skating was popular, and we discovered a new way to have great fun. A jump rope was tied to my chair handle, and six or eight skaters were given a "high-speed" tow.
School was very nearby, and sometimes I "walked" there with friends. They would all hang their backpacks on my chair. Some Saturdays, I would walk the dog. This was always a challenge, because she would get her leash wound around my chair. On Saturday mornings, my sisters would tiptoe out to the TV to watch cartoons before anyone else woke up. I yelled from bed that I wanted to watch, too. So, they would roll me out of bed, onto a blanket, then pull me to the living room.
A couple of times I even ran away from home. When my little yellow toy suitcase was packed with my favorite things, I took off angrily down the sidewalk. I never got any further than just around the corner, though. There would always be the smell of something good cooking coming from somewhere nearby, so of course I had to go back, just in case the aroma was originating in my house.
In Alabama, our family hobby was bike riding. I rode in a trailer, and especially loved soaring downhill at twenty miles an hour!
After eighth grade, my dad retired from active military duty. We moved here, to our farm near Coos Bay, Oregon to set down roots. My sisters and I all attend Marshfield High School, where I am a Senior. MHS`s campus is large, and I have to take the "scenic route" at times to class. Sometimes, I really need to "haul" in order to avoid being tardy. I enjoy almost all of my classes, but especially fourth period, which is when I work on moving. (exercising)
So, when my physical therapist, Lisa, introduced me to the M.O.V.E. (Mobility Opportunities Via Education) program at the beginning of last school year, naturally I was interested. The first thing she told me was that this was no ordinary PT program. In fact, M.O.V.E. is technically not PT at all. I would be in complete control of the pace and order in which I progressed, rather than the therapists. All right! That sounded very cool to me. So, we went to work.
I have to admit. In the beginning, I wasn't that impressed. Learning how to balance in a regular chair was hard work, took a long time, and was not much fun. But after I mastered that, things sped up. Next, I worked on "prompted" standing for three minutes, and then prompted walking, with Lisa, or my Educational Assistant, Karen supporting me from in front or behind.
In the first week of December, Lisa brought a visitor with her. That is how I met a brilliant, crazy, fun, and incredibly understanding woman named Linda Badabi, creator of M.O.V.E. I went through my routine for her. The next day, she took time out from her busy schedule to bring a Rifton Gait Trainer for me to try. She strapped me in, unlocked the brakes, and stepped back. I stood there for a minute, feeling awesome. This was going to be the first time, since using the infant walker about twelve years ago, that I walked under my own power. I took off across that cafeteria, and never looked back.
The Gait Trainer is a walker with adjustable, removable prompts. Already, my "training wheels" have been removed, and next I'll lose the seat.
M.O.V.E. has opened doors for me. Transfers are easier. I eat lunch in a regular chair. I can walk the halls after school and chat with friends. I am now able to "dance". I can sit in a deck chair and play cards with my family. Almost every day, I gain confidence, and am surprised by new or better abilities.
Thanks to my family, Linda, Lisa, Karen, and everyone else who has worked to help me with my goal of staying On The Move!