Daniel J Vance

Sometimes the unexpected stories are best.

A month or so ago, I received an email request for something completely unrelated to this column and later on I realized she likely would make a good person to feature here. It was one of those random things. Her name was Joanna Dunford of Wythe County, Virginia, and she was born with cerebral palsy. For the interview, she preferred being questioned through email versus the telephone. In essence, I asked her to tell her life story. Here is what she wrote back, with some minor edits for clarity.

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She wrote, “I have mild cerebral palsy and live in a small town in Virginia, in Wythe County. When I was growing up, my parents divorced when I was about seven. In elementary school, I always wanted to play basketball, but the school would not let me because of me falling down (so much). But they did let me work the scoreboard.”

She continued. “My mom does physical therapy (with me) three days a week for about 45 minutes each time. I have always tried to not let cerebral palsy overpower me and have always wanted to do things in life. For example, I went to Wytheville Community College for microcomputer operations and afterward went through the department of rehabilitation (looking for work). They said work would be hard for me, but I proved them wrong. I now work at Walmart three days a week. I cannot drive a car and that makes me very depressed because I have to depend on my mom to take me everywhere. My outlook on disability is to always try to do things and there is always a way around the disability. “

According to the National Institutes of Health, cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder appearing in infancy or early childhood that “permanently affect(s) body movement and muscle coordination.” It is caused by “:abnormalities” in parts of the brain that control muscle movement.

The vast majority of people with cerebral palsy were born with it. The severity remains relatively stable over a lifetime. Some common symptoms include lack of muscle control, one foot or leg dragging, walking on toes, a scissored gait, and loose or stiff muscle tone. It rarely affects intelligence.

When asked to give advice, Dunford said, “It would be that a person with a disability is just like anyone else.”

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