Meet George! George is a friend from undergrad who I recently had the opportunity to hear his story of mobility. George has spastic cerebral palsy (CP). In the last six months George said that he has started to own his CP, but it was not always like that. Here is his story.
George started moving with an army crawl. He would get himself all over the house with impressive upper body strength. When he was four he had a surgery to “loosen up” his legs. He does not recal the exact surgery, but what was important was that he was able to walk after. George walked with walker and two ankle foot orthosis (AFO). George did not use the walker for long. one years later he was walking without any assistive device. George went through two more surgical interventions to increase his mobility at age nine and twelve.
Growing up George did not let his challenge with mobility stop him from participating in activities any kid would do like playing baseball, joining in the jump house, and going hiking. Even with his great success his family was concerned about him loosing his ability to walk. They were concerned that George might fall and hurt himself to the extent that he would no longer be able to walk. his family told him that he had worked so hard to be able to walk and they did not want him to lose it now. “One of the hardest things about growing up just being a kid”. They wanted to protect him. No parent wants to see their child get hurt but it is something that when avoided can be detrimental. Children with disabilities need the opportunity to learn to get back up just like any other kid.
George continued to push his limits as he got older even when others asked him sit out. In P.E. he was the only one exempt from running the mile. Instead of sitting out George ran the mile and was able to get hose mile time down to an eight minute mile pace. George will be the first one to tell you all stories are ones of overcoming. George says he has learned that he has to listen to his body. Sometimes his body says no more and he stops to avoid injury.
Today George challenges himself by getting out and hiking. He says that his balance and posture plays a huge role in allowing him to get though the hike. George hikes without an assistive device. For more difficult hikes he makes sure he has someone with him who understands what he needs so they can provide help if he needs it.
One of these people who provided help when George needed it was his uncle. When George was kid and still walking with his walker his uncle came over and took his walker away from and him learn to walk without it. At first George was scared and unsure about this new way of walking. Soon he forgot all about the walker and never looked back. George says he was happy that his uncle took the walker away from him because it challenged him to improve.
George’s uncle was able to see the potential in him when George could not see it in himself. This is one of my favorite things about being a physical therapist, discovering the potential in someone else and then showing them how to reach it. When met with this new-found potential people are often scared, like George, my patients, and myself. Luckily myself and many others have come across people in our lives that can see our potential. They can see us beyond where we currently stand. There are two challenges to discovering this potential. First, it is listening and believing the one who sees you for who you are. It is a scary thing stepping into the unknown but luckily you do not have to do it alone. Second, it is having the courage to be the helper in another’s journey, to be the person who brings awareness to the potential in others. All of us need help and fortunately we have the capacity to help each other. So I ask you to do your part, like George’s uncle, and be that person that acknowledges the potential in others.
What is your story of mobility? I would love to hear it.