Lee Schuh has quite a story. “I grew up in a South Korean orphanage,” said 42-year-old Schuh in a telephone interview. “I have mild cerebral palsy, and because of it I used to fall down a lot when I was little. My left arm and leg are affected.”
According to a United Cerebral Palsy website, about 750,000 Americans have cerebral palsy, which is caused by an injury at birth that affects the brain’s ability to control muscle movement. It usually doesn’t affect intelligence.
“I was adopted at age eight,” he continued, “and went from South Korea to the Atlanta suburbs. I believe I was our county’s first international adoption.” He couldn’t speak English at first and needed intensive tutoring in fifth and sixth grade. He went on to do well academically. His brothers and sisters accepted him into their family.
In college, Schuh was working towards a career in physical therapy when his pastor challenged him to apply to medical school. He had the grades. The pastor said that if God wanted him in medical school, no one could stop him.
Then in 1989, the Medical College of Georgia accepted him.
Four years later, one month before his medical school graduation, Schuh returned home to his old South Korean orphanage to “give something back” as a volunteer for a few weeks, he said. The orphanage had 260 children with disabilities. While there, he befriended a Korean staff member who would become his wife.
Today, Dr. Lee Schuh is a rehabilitation physician helping cerebral palsy patients at world-renowned Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare. He also deals with the day-to-day aches and pains of having cerebral palsy himself.
“I got into medicine because of my disability,” he said. “But in comparison to my patients, my [level of disability] is pretty mild. To a degree, though, I can relate to the 25 percent of my patients who are able to walk. They can see I’ve been through it, too. I don’t just talk to them from a book, but I’ve lived through what it means to have leg pain and to have botox shots to help muscles relax.”
Seven years ago, the Schuhs adopted an infant daughter from the same orphanage Lee grew up in. He said, “It’s good being a father to her, in part because she and I can relate so well to each other.”