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A Sports Story To Which I Can Relate

As you can read in that little blurb to the right, I have cerebral palsy. Sports and CP don’t intertwine often, but that’s why there are people such as Tom Rinaldi, who is awesome with stories that blend sports and the human condition. You may have seen his latest feature about Villanova basketball’s student managers, Frank Kineavy and Frank Gaynor, during the Saturday morning edition of College GameDay. If you didn’t, please do yourself a favor and watch it now*.

A couple of immediate takeaways I had after watching this Saturday: One, I can obviously relate, from not wanting any special treatment to dealing with other people’s perceptions of you.

And two, I feel fortunate. And that’s not to say I am better off than Kineavy and Gaynor, because we each have our own obstacles and difficulties to overcome with cerebral palsy. But I have to think my road hasn’t been as grueling.

There are many types of CP; I fall into the category of spastic diplegia, which basically means only my lower extremities are affected. Simply, my legs are weak and tight. Otherwise, I don’t have any symptoms (well, other than some standard nearsightedness, and a case of crossed eyes when I was a child, which required two surgeries to correct. Why two? That’s an interesting story, but like in “How I Met Your Mother,” we can save that for another time). I have full use and control of my upper body. I can talk and gesture clearly. It’s impossible to tell that I am disabled by solely looking from the waist up.

But I know that it could have been a  much different scenario depending on a matter of seconds. My CP developed at birth as I was born seven weeks premature with underdeveloped lungs. When I was born, my lungs collapsed and I needed the help of a ventilator to breathe. Had I gone without oxygen for a few extra moments, I’m not sure how much more brain damage I would have sustained. I realize the possibility that I could have become a drastically different person on the exterior. I may not be able to push my own wheelchair or speak with my own voice. I may have low muscle tone and demand assistance for everyday tasks.

I’ve been around hundreds of people with CP, most of them with more pronounced physical and mental limitations. I can’t imagine how emotionally draining it must be if you can’t hold a conversation or need someone else to dress you at the age of 20. I don’t know because I’ve never had to deal with anything like that. So yes, I feel fortunate or even lucky. But what’s great to see is Kineavy and Gaynor taking their disability in stride. They seem to be comfortable in their own skin, and that’s an extremely important quality — to make people forget you are disabled by not emphasizing it yourself. Carry on, boys.

*One of these days, I’ll actually take two minutes and learn how to embed video into a blog

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  1. Padrick
    February 16, 2011 at 8:40 am

    I’d never know you had underdeveloped lungs, you blowhard.

  2. February 16, 2011 at 10:22 am

    BOOM!

    I was kept on the ventilator for too long and now my lungs have 120 percent capacity of a normal human.

    That’s not true.

    But it might be. I don’t know, I was two minutes old, I don’t remember.

    • Padrick
      February 16, 2011 at 3:58 pm

      hahahahaha.

      also, check this out

      • February 16, 2011 at 7:20 pm

        Wow, that really works. Is it me or have sports T-shirts really stepped it up in the last couple of years?

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