OPINION: Life with cerebral palsy

Michael Friant, Contributing Writer

Millions of people globally have been diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, also known as CP.CP is a spectrum, meaning every diagnosis is different in terms of how the individual is affected. CP is primarily caused by a lack of oxygen just before, during, or after birth. This deprivation of oxygen results in irreversible damage to the part of the brain that controls the person’s motor functions and often experiences stiffness of the muscle tone. This muscle stiffness can impact every inch of one’s body. The type of CP that I have is called quadriplegic spastic, which simply means it affects all four limbs of my body. Since today is national cerebral palsy awareness day, I am going to explain how it affects me in my everyday life and how it in extension affects my academic career and social life at UNCW.

While the stiffness is undoubtedly noticed by me in certain circumstances, it is my reality and the only one that I have ever known. So, while CP affects every part of my existence, some of it is so engrained into whom I am that I do not even think about it as CP. One small example of how the stiffness affects me is going up and down curbs or any type of step. I have to physically stop and concentrate on this one step up or down to prevent me from falling. While this might be 10 seconds, it is still something that I have to deal with in terms of the stiffness of my muscles. This extra time is something I have to fit in daily , even in my academic studies, though I have implemented tricks to shrink that time over the years.

The factoring of extra time is not too frustrating compared to my speech impediment. While I am able to articulate words that some people are able to understand, I mainly rely on a free app that speaks what I type into it. As a person who has a lot to say and likes to talk, it is exasperating to physically pause and proceed to type out my answers. This delay in my response often causes people to shy away from engaging with me due to the time it takes for me to type my answers. Worse yet, some people automatically assume that I am mute which is certainly not the case. This leads to disappointment on my end and a feeling of not fitting into a crowd.


On the flip side of this reality is the fact that I do not get to express my thoughts on a topic because by the time I type out what I want to say the subject has changed or it is not relevant anymore. A perfect example of this is class over zoom. Just think how often you interject a question or two for clarification on a specific issue. By the time I have my question typed out, the conversation has moved on and the question is not relevant anymore. More broadly speaking, this occurs in conversations with friends.

Despite these challenges, I do not let them hold me back from living life to the fullest, whether that be academically or my social life within the UNCW community. I currently have a 4.0 GPA, and I am taking a 12 credit hour semester. As far as my social life is concerned, I am obviously involved with the Seahawk, I am part of the surf club (yes I do surf on my belly), and I am a member of a kickball and wiffleball team. I am planning on joining the ski trip to Colorado next year.

More broadly, I am an avid runner and traveler. I can run anything from a 5k to a half marathon. I have my second half marathon coming up in about a month. I have traveled solely to Utah, Arizona and Calgary, Canada. While on these travels, I have zip lined, hung off a cliff while attempting to rock repel, soared on a four-wheeler through the Arizona desert and countless of other activities. Going forward and once I get my vaccination, I am hoping to travel domestically to places like Washington D.C., New Orleans, Las Vegas, etc. I would also like to go to other countries as well.

Though I may have physical characteristics that are not normalized enough in society, may require a tab bit of extra time to do certain things, and may not be “convenient,” please take the extra time to include me because I am just like you in my desires and aspirations. In doing so, you will improve my quality of life and will gain a loyal friend through thick and thin because I treasure these kinds of friendships above all else.

To find out more about me and my mission in life, please visit @potentialfulest on Instagram.