Today is National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day so I wanted to take some time to discuss what exactly Cerebral Palsy (CP) is, share more about my personal experience and clarify some of my physical restrictions.
As defined by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: “Cerebral Palsy refers to a group of neurological disorders that appear in infancy or early childhood and permanently affect body movement and muscle coordination. CP is caused by damage to or abnormalities inside the developing brain that disrupt the brain’s ability to control movement and maintain posture and balance. The term cerebral refers to the brain; palsy refers to the loss or impairment of motor function.”
There are varying degrees of CP, and each person who is diagnosed can be affected in different ways on a more (or less) severe scale. While I certainly don’t claim to be a medical expert on the topic, my experience is personal to my story and is in no way meant to be a one-size-fits all representation.
With there being a few different forms of CP, I wanted to go more in depth about the form I have. Birth Injury Guide shares that “Diplegic cerebral palsy is a form of cerebral palsy marked by tense muscles and spasms. Leg muscles in particular tend to be extremely tight, and over time, this causes joints to stiffen, reducing the range of motion. Diplegic CP is considered one of the milder forms of the disorder, and most children’s intelligence and cognitive functions are not severely affected, although they may take longer to reach intellectual milestones.”
I am extremely fortunate to have one of the milder cases of CP. Luckily, I am able to live an independent lifestyle and often times only need assistance in particular instances. I can talk, I can feed myself, I can drive a car, shower by myself and honestly most things a physically-abled person can do. Not to say that I do not need to alter the way some things are done or rely on the help of others to assist with certain tasks. Like, if you need a hot bowl of soup transported from the kitchen to the dining room table – I am NOT your girl.
Just to give you a more clear picture of my capabilities and level of CP, when I walk I drag my feet by nature because my brain is unable to send the proper signals to my legs. I need to focus hard to think about each step I take in order to create a steady walking form. Because of the way I walk, I go through dozens of shoes each year due to the holes that form near my toes from dragging on the ground and I cannot wear sandals or go barefoot without cutting my feet. I get tired or winded easily, and that’s why I rely on a mobility scooter for long distances. On a day-to-day basis I simply walk from my apartment, to my car, to my office and occasionally run some errands, so I typically only use my scooter on weekends for a trip to the mall or for special events. When I was younger and in school, I used a walker.
The last aspect of CP I wanted to mention is my inability to stand in one place. I find it challenging to stand without shifting my weight every few minutes if I’m not near a wall to lean on, so you’ll occasionally see me walk in a mini circle just to keep my balance and relieve my stronger leg from its duties of holding the weight of my body up.
As time goes on I’ll certainly share more insight about my physical capabilities, but in celebration of National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day and still being at the beginning stages of my blog, the intent of this post was to share the medical definition of my diagnosis and simply paint a picture for those reading along who don’t know me in person.