At 9 months, my parents began realizing I was not reaching development milestones in comparison to my older siblings and my mom took me to the doctor. They addressed my mom’s concerns, informed her that I had a disability, and recommended I needed to attend early intervention. I was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, which my parents had no idea what it was.
When it was recommended that I see a pediatric doctor who specialized in developmental behavior, my parents began raising me with an open book. I was referred to see a rehabilitation specialist at another hospital, who referred me to see an orthopedic doctor in which my parents were not happy with his response upon first meeting me. He requested that I needed hip surgery right away, and my mom was not pleased with such a quick request. I was referred to the HSS Cerebral Palsy Clinic, where I began receiving medical care from Dr. Rodrigo, who began monitoring my hips. Until it became a concern for surgery, I was then referred to Dr. Ruth, where he performed successful hip replacement surgeries in 2004 at the age of 9. Thanks to him, I am able to sit in my wheelchair with better posture.
Nearly 5 years later while having Mother’s Day dinner, my brother noticed what seemed to be a hole in my back when checking on me. My mom quickly called HSS and asked if we can see the next available doctor. The next morning, I was at HSS getting x-rays done and waiting to see the doctor, who diagnosed me with scoliosis. I was referred to see Dr. Green, who told us surgery was the next step to correct my scoliosis as my spine was curved at 90-degrees. I began to see many specialists in preparation of my surgery. Honestly, I was emotionally drained in the process of one of the appointments, which was preparing me to use an oxygen machine for the rest of my life. In October 2009, Dr. Green performed the surgery. It took 9 hours, but it was very successful. I refer to it as being given a second chance in life.
With Dr. Green, I knew I can communicate with him. Whether it was through writing letters or sending emails with my concerns, he always responded to the things that mattered to me. Before my scoliosis surgery, I did a lot of research and had a list of questions ready for Dr. Green. I felt secure and confident that everything would be okay.
My experience at HSS was unforgettable because of the great care from my medical team. They always made sure my parents and I saw hope and possibilities in having Cerebral Palsy and scoliosis. My relationship with Dr. Green, Dr. Root and the rest of the care team was something special. I consider them family. Dr. Root would clinch me under his arm because he knew my sitting balance was not great and play with my nose. He made coming to the doctor easy and I was never afraid of seeing a doctor as most kids would be. His personality always brought a smile to my face. Being very shy when I was younger, I knew he cared a lot about me and his job.
When I enrolled in college and needed to have medical documents signed, Dr. Green reminded me I could go to college. I remembered his words, especially since graduating with my associate’s degree in Liberal Arts from Kingsborough Community College in June 2020. My goal is to make fitness my priority when the pandemic is over.
To those with Cerebral Palsy, always remember that within each milestone you grow uniquely. Always follow your dreams and listen to your doctors, but make sure your voice is heard.
To parents, be your child’s best advocate.