Cerebral palsy is a term used to describe a group of disorders affecting body movement and muscle coordination. It is caused by damage to the brain by loss of oxygen. When I was 2, I was diagnosed with hemiplegia cerebral palsy.
This form of cerebral palsy affects only the leg and arm on the same side. In my case, it affects my left arm and left leg. Although having it does affect my life, it does not affect it as much as it affects other people. Some children are faced with blindness and have no control over all of their extremities. They face walking difficulties, functional problems of the hands, speaking disabilities, vision problems and hearing impairments.
My mother was very sick during her pregnancy and even went into pre-term labor at 20 weeks. She had a blood disease called toxemia as well. I was not born pre-term, but because of this blood disease, I was born toxic and severely jaundiced, which caused the cerebral palsy.
I started walking when I was almost 2 years old. It wasn’t a normal toddler walk; I walked with my left foot dragging behind and my left arm in a fist held to my chest. After being diagnosed with hemiplegia cerebral palsy at the age of 3, I started therapy. When I started therapy, my gross motor skills were those of a 10-18-month-old. I fell in love with my therapist right away. She taught me so many things that seemed so simple to other kids my age and every younger but so hard for me. She taught me how to walk, run, use stairs, jump and coordinate my leg and arm.
When I was 5, my mom decided to put me in dance. Dance was good for building my muscles and stretching my tendons in my leg. It also helped with my coordination.
At 6, I had to get an LFO, which was a brace or a plastic leg. It was placed under my foot and behind my calf. I was a little embarrassed at first, afraid that some kids would make fun of me. Then I thought it was pretty cool, being that it was something that nobody else had.
I also had a leg discrepancy, which means one leg is shorter than the other, half an inch to be exact. I wear a shoe with a lift to correct that and help me walk normally. It also will help with future hip and knee problems.
Today, I am LFO-free and dance is changing my world with CP. Although I still have one shorter leg that does affect certain areas of my life even in dance, and there’s a future possibility of hip and knee problems, I am beyond thankful. There are so many children that are affected with CP that have more challenges than I could ever face.
Dacoda Maddalone is a sixth-grader at Schenectady Christian School