28 July 2009

My Daughter and Cerebral Palsy

July 23, 2:26 AM · David Gullen - Detroit Stay-at-Home Dads Examiner

My teacherCerebral palsy, also referred to as CP, is a term used to describe a group of chronic conditions affecting body movement and muscle coordination. It is caused by damage to one or more specific areas of the brain, usually occurring during fetal development; before, during, or shortly after birth; or during infancy. Thus, these disorders are not caused by problems in the muscles or nerves. Instead, faulty development or damage to motor areas in the brain disrupt the brain's ability to adequately control movement and posture.

My daughter has cerebral palsy. My wife and I started noticing delays in her development when she was around six months old. She would not crawl, or even attempt to, she would merely drag herself a few feet and stop. My wife knew there was something wrong, and I to my shame got upset with her, I did not want to believe that anything was wrong with my little girl. We took her to a neurologist who told us she was developmentally delayed and had some muscle tightness, but he would not diagnose her. Immediately we began physical therapy at Beaumont hospital, hoping that all she needed was a little help. Finally, when she was nineteen months old we went to the University of Michigan medical center where she was finally diagnosed. I looked at my wife and felt tears welling in my eyes, we both held our daughter and assured her that she would be fine. Two days later she took her first steps; gingerly holding on to the edge of our couch she let go and stumbled forward before falling with a little thump, she looked at me, smiled and raised her little arms over her head in triumph. I in turn broke down and cried holding her for several minutes until she whacked me in the head, letting me know that she'd had enough and wanted to go play.

Children are amazing. They can break your heart and mend it all in the matter of minutes. I believe my daughter heard the diagnosis, saw our reaction and immediately had something to prove. We were told she would not walk before her second birthday; she will be two at the end of the month and has been walking steadily for four months now. I learn from her everyday, I learn perseverance and courage in the face of adversity, I learn stark determination and indomitable will, I learn that no matter how much I love her today, tomorrow I will love her even more.

My wife and my child have taught me more about living in the past two years than I had ever imagined possible. They have shown me the man I can be, and though flawed, I am proud of the man I've become. Everyday I spend with my daughter is a gift. I watch her and realize the innumerable possibilities that life has, I see a fresh world through her eyes and notice things that I have not noticed in years; the smell of a flower, the song of a bird, being mesmerized by trees swaying in the wind. Though I am busier than ever, she makes me stop and notice the small things that often get left behind. She is my strength and I in turn try to be hers, everyday she renews my faith.

Being a parent to a special needs child is difficult. We are fortunate, our daughter's cerebral palsy is mild, with physical and speech therapy she should adapt well. It's hard work, the hardest work I have ever done, but it is rife with reward; a smile, a small milestone, laughter, family. Every morning when she wakes up, she greets me with a smile and I get to start my day with a hug from the most special person I have ever known, what could be better than that? I am a lucky guy.

To learn more about cerebral palsy go to this website: www.ucp.org, it is a wonderful site filled with information that is vital to understanding this issue. It is also where I copied the first paragraph of this article.

David Gullen is an Examiner from Detroit. You can see David's articles at: http://www.Examiner.com/x-15012-Detroit-StayatHome-Dads-Examiner

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