After a successful surgical procedure earlier this year, a 4-year-old Michigan girl with cerebral palsy took her first steps, and her proud mother recorded every "step" of the …
Alex will be blogging regularly for CerebralPalsyGuidance.com
My name is Alex Diaz-Granados. I’m a Miami-based freelance writer, online reviewer, and aspiring novelist. I studied journalism and mass communications in college, and I live in a nice condominium in sunny South Florida. I have a fairly active social life and I’m in a happy romantic relationship. I also happen to have cerebral palsy.
- I’m Alex. Although I have cerebral palsy, I try to get out as much as possible and don’t let it define me. (Photo by Alex Diaz-Granados)
Living with CP is a never-ending challenge. As much as I like to not think about being disabled, it is the reality that I’ve lived with since I was born over 50 years ago. I don’t usually allow CP to define who I am as a person; nevertheless, my condition has shaped my personality in many ways – some good, some bad, and some in-between.
Like many babies who are affected by CP, I was not born with this neuromuscular condition. According to my mom, I was born two months premature.
I was a tiny baby at birth – so small that my maternal grandmother had to buy a doll and use the small baby booties it came with because my feet were so small. And since I was eight weeks premature and my lungs were still weak, the attending OB/GYN determined that I had to be placed in an incubator for a while until my respiratory system was stronger.
Unfortunately, the nurse who was tasked with placing me in the incubator forgot to turn on the incubator’s oxygen supply in a timely manner. Mom never told me how long I was in there with no air to breathe – it might have been a minute, maybe more, maybe less.
It doesn’t matter now, really. But even if it was just a brief instant, my brain was deprived of oxygen and part of the motor control center suffered irreversible damage.
As a result, many aspects of my life have been affected by CP, even though I seem to have one of the disability’s less severe versions. I can walk more or less like a non-disabled person, though I tend to drag one of my feet when I’m distracted or tired.
I can also walk for fairly long distances when I put my mind to it, and I don’t need braces or orthopedic shoes like many others with CP do.
I can also perform many everyday tasks that non-disabled persons take for granted. My mom and many therapists (occupational and physical) made sure that I didn’t use my disability as an excuse to not do chores or even dress myself.
Sure, I needed help buttoning my shirts and pants till I was eight or nine, and I was 11 years old when I finally mastered the act of tying my shoelaces. However, I have had to help around the house and find ways to make a living since I was young – my mom didn’t want me to depend on the kindness of others or be a burden to society.
The most serious challenges of living with CP, at least for me, are dealing with the limitations I face on a daily basis. Even though I can use my hands well for most things, I still have trouble with tasks that require manual dexterity.
I can’t, for instance, build plastic model kits of airplanes or ships, nor can I write well with a pencil or pen. I can also cook well, especially if I follow a recipe to the letter, but I have a hard time cutting vegetables or slicing meat, fish, or poultry without injuring my fingers. In addition, like many folks with cerebral palsy, I tend to have involuntary movements of my head, arms, and torso.
I’m not an expert on cerebral palsy, but it seems that the damage to my neuromuscular system may include learning problems and tangential emotional issues. I was blessed with a talent for writing and have a college-level reading comprehension, yet I have struggled with an inability to grasp mathematics beyond a certain point.
I’m able to grasp enough math to balance a checkbook or figure out the area of a room, but I don’t understand algebra. That’s why I never finished my college education even though I was an excellent liberal arts student in my 20s.
Living with CP can sometimes be depressing and often makes me feel socially awkward. Although most of my friends and family say I’m easy to get along with and a good person all around, I do have many emotional issues.
I tend to get depressed and/or agitated over things that wouldn’t faze many people, and I have lower self-esteem than I ought to. I am also not a guy who takes risks often, and I have an unusually strong fear of rejection.
Nevertheless, I try my best to better myself and not let my disability define me. It’s a constant challenge for me to lead as normal a lifestyle as possible, and sometimes I don’t rise to the occasion to achieve certain goals. Still, I try to better myself, physically and mentally, in order to find happiness in my personal and professional life.