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A Friendship that persists: a peek into life with Cerebral Palsy

The lunchroom where a special friendship began

‘Pizza AND noodles for lunch? That was an odd choice, but nonetheless she was still a person right? Should I go up to her? Say hi?... No, she’s eating. But she looks so... lonely.’ I thought. Leaning over the table, canes sprawled across the seat next to her, was Katie. I’d seen her in church but we had never talked, we weren’t even in the same grade. But just because she had a school aide with her didn’t mean she was different, right? Plus, she was eating alone, no one should eat alone on their very first day. It was my junior year in high school and I had this overwhelming feeling that this year... this year was going to be different. Better. When I saw Katie sitting alone at lunch I decided to invite her over to my lunch table full of friends, despite the fact she was a bit different. She agreed to sit with my table and cautiously came over with her tray of food and aide following behind. I asked her what her name was and what grade she was in, even though I knew very well she was a freshman (she had that deer-in-headlights look on her face).

Cerebral Palsy & Anxiety

Over the next few day she sat with us and we learned more about each other, our hobbies, interests... and diagnosis? Yeah not quite the usual introductory question you ask your new friend. But she was visibly different and we couldn’t deny that. Katie has a condition called Cerebral Palsy. Katie developed this condition due to lack of oxygenation while her mother was giving birth to her, which caused a portion of her brain to die. When we became better friend over the next few weeks, I let Katie in on a little secret of my own: I have anxiety. Not just a touch of anxiousness here and there, a full, life-changing diagnosis of anxiety. This seemed to only help our friendship. If we were going to live though this, we could at least do it together... right?

Through Thick & Thin

Over the next year we became very close, we even had surgery in the same week and recovered together! Before I met Katie, when she had different braces on her feet, she could take 98 independent steps. Now, after another surgery and two changes in braces for her legs (Afo to leaf spring carbon to smo and back to the old leaf spring braces) she could only take about 3-4 good even steps independently.

With my help, we decided that this was not the life she had to stay in and we could improve on her walking, so we started to train. We did horseback riding, rollerskating, a 1 mike fun run, yoga, softball, miracle league baseball, swimming, biking, walking, and I attended physical therapy with her. We set a goal: Katie will walk independently across the graduation stage (approx. 24 steps) in 2020 if I can learn to walk that same distance on my HANDS! Even though we hit some bumps with depression and anxiety, we continue to train daily to learn our new skills. Through this all, Katie, her sister Emmy, and I have all become very close and treasure the time we spend together eating dinner with Katie’s amazingly supportive parents and the time we spend having fun learning new things. This is not the end to our story, though.

Soon, Katie might qualify for SDR surgery, a spinal surgery that could improve her walking. Even if we hit more bumps, are denied the surgery, or can’t make our goal, I know for a fact we will maintain a strong friendship.

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