About Me

On July 20, 1964, in the middle of a very hot summer, I came into this world kicking and screaming. This might sound like an average birth, but it was not. After nine months of my mother’s healthy pregnancy, I was born with the umbilical cord wrapped thrice around my neck. After unraveling me, I was placed in an incubator and given last rights. Little did everyone know then that I was going to defy everyone and every negative thought they had.

Five days after delivery, my mom went home while I was remained under observation. As doctors and nurses inspected me, they called me a “fighter“ but didn’t realize there was something just not quite with this newborn. Two weeks later, I was released to my proud parents and thirteen-year-old sister Ursula. The first big event in my life, my baptism, was also different. I was the unique baby un-allowed to receive holy oil or water.

At four months, sitting and keeping my head upright was still impossible. Having my sister to compare me to, she noticed I was in no way like her. My parents relayed their baby's developmental concerns to all who would listen and were told to wait two or three more months before consulting a doctor – babies are unalike.

Three months came and went but there was still no change. My mom was certain something was out of the ordinary while my dad could and would not accept this. To him, his little girl was perfect. Even the pediatrician saw nothing unusual, excusing my behavior as being a “slow” child needing more time to develop. It was when my mom noticed my cross-eyedness and was referred to an optometrist, that her concerns were confirmed. He referred us to a New York hospital specializing child development. The following day I was examined there and diagnosed as having Cerebral Palsy. This medical phrase was completely foreign to my parents. The doctor assured them my condition was not fatal and explained that CP is a malfunction of a small part of the brain that controls the various muscles in the body. This brain damage was the aftermath of not enough oxygen entering the brain. The cerebrum part of the brain, which is the center of the thought and intelligence, was undamaged. 

Under his advisement, I was enrolled at the United Cerebral Palsy Center of Jamaica, Queens, a specialized school where children like myself were receiving the proper care and attention. There I was taught how to sit, stand, speak, and the other fundamentals of child development. Through vigorous physical therapy, I learned to coordinate my leg and arms. Balance was nonexistent so I began in a wheelchair. As years passed, I graduated to walkers, canes, and crutches.

Therapy at the center was not enough therefore, extensive rehabilitation took place at the hospital in Manhattan.  Mondays – speech therapy, Wednesdays – physical therapy and Fridays – occupational therapy. Summers meant vacations from school but not from therapy. The center’s social worker arranged a visiting therapist to continue poking, pulling and prodding me at home.  We lived on the second floor of a three-family house.  When the doorbell rang, I’d crawl to the top of the stairs and yell down, “When are you going home?”  My mom would remind me that she hardly had a chance to come through the door.  Nonetheless, I wanted to know!

From ages five to eight, I appeared on several United Cerebral Palsy telethons as a representative for the center. On one such occasion, they did a segment on me throwing away my crutches. I’ve been walking without them ever since and thoroughly enjoyed this newfound independence. My dad who, held my hand everywhere I went, learned to let me walk on my own. Whenever I’d stand up, he’d offer me his hand. I’d laugh saying, “I can do it!” From then on, I believed I could do anything!

Although I had many friends, counselors at the center thought it would be beneficial if I spent time apart from my parents. Not only did I need to learn to become independent, but “they deserved a respite”. Along with my best friend, Eva Munson, I was bussed off to a six-week sleep-away camp for disabled children where, I learned to dress and feed myself. Homesick, I begged to go home, I was not a happy camper!

Two years later, I finally had a positive camp stay at Camp Oakhurst in Monmouth, New Jersey. There disabled campers got to do fun things such activities as arts and crafts, drama, music, woodwork and photography. It was so enjoyable that I returned there for fourteen summers at which point, my parents decided I was too old.

It wasn’t until my second year of junior high school that I was thrown into a mainstream class of forty non-disabled students. This taught me what it was like to be in the minority, both in school and out. Many of these students hadn’t had any interactions with a disabled person and due to my slurred speech, some would ask if I was either drunk or stoned while others stared or laughed. Luckily, I was also inclined able to laugh at myself, which put them at ease. This had a positive effect on my fellow classmates as they began asking serious questions. They wondered what it was like to have a disability. Though it was frustrating at time, I understood their curiosity and tried to answer them as openly and honestly as I could. I knew that no matter how much I explained, they could not fully understand.

At age of sixteen I went to Francis Lewis High School. Better known as one of the toughest schools in Queens. Since I don’t have the physical ability to write, my notes were taken for me. A teacher, who taught publishing, didn’t want me taking his class because I couldn’t write. When I sat in the seat in front of his desk and I said, “my disability is physical not mental”, he got the idea I wasn’t leaving and I wanted to be a writer very badly.

In 1987 I graduated college with a BA in English. Unfortunately, there was no work in the field where we were living so I stumbled (excuse the pun) into a job with the Nassau County Police Department. I worked there full-time as an inventory custodian.

For most of my spare time, I was heavily involved in sports; wheelchair handball, track and field, equestrian, and trike: all for competitions. In 1994, I went to international competition for trike and bought home a silver medal.

Like I said, I am a person who defies what people say.

I was told me I would never wear "regular" shoes and be able to walk in them - I do!

I was told I could never drive a car - I did as well as ride a horse!

I was told I would never marry because no one other than my parents would want to care for me - I married in 1999.

I was given a dog from people who said I would never have a child - I have a wonderful son!

Life is good!