Story by Phillip Fowler
Many students at Missouri Valley College have been positively influenced by someone they know living with a disability.
According to A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia, muscular dystrophy is defined as “a group of inherited disorders, that involve muscle weakness and loss of muscle tissue, which gets worse over time.” Some people know the disease, often referred to as MD, because of famous supporters such as Jerry Lewis and Ray Romano. Others are more familiar with the illness because of the personal effects it has had on them.
Keith O’Neal, a Computer Graphics major at Missouri Valley College, knows what it is like living with a sibling with muscular dystrophy. At the age of 9, Keith said he had the feeling that something was not right with his brother. He said his brother always took a long time to get somewhere; sometimes it would take him double the time to go somewhere than it would anyone else. At that point, his parents decided to have a talk and tell Keith that his brother had a disease that affected him by taking away the muscles he needed to walk correctly.
After growing up a little, Keith started going to his brother’s appointments with him; he was often the only one available to push him around in a wheelchair. At one of the appointments, the doctors told him a statement that he said still affects him today. He not only learned that his brother’s illness would get worse as he got older, but also learned that muscular dystrophy would eventually take his brother’s life.
Keith said, “Learning that my brother would be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life was painful, but knowing that a condition he never chose to have would be to blame for taking his life is too much to describe.”
Keith said the reason he is strong enough to overcome the difficulties that life gives him is solely because of his brother. The hard fact that his brother willl never be able to have the opportunities that most people take for granted is Keith’s motivation to succeed in life; he’s dedicated his life to making his brother’s one to enjoy.
Because of his brother’s condition, Keith said his goal in life is to find a way to create equal opportunity for those who are disabled and have no control over the position they’re in.
Sherri J. Sellini, an Exercise Science major, also has a brother with an unfair illness that is potentially life-threatening.
Myelomeningocele, most commonly referred to as spina bifida, is a birth defect in which the backbone and spinal canal do not close up before birth. Up until the age of 2, Sherri’s little brother was very fragile. Some family members were not allowed the simple pleasure of picking him up at all.
Like Keith, Sherri was shocked to find out that her brother was born with a disease. As she got older, the shock wore off and would eventually be replaced with a sense of purpose.
The disability that Sherri’s brother was born with has made her more understanding in regard to those living with a disability. As her brother’s keeper, she was the one to help with everyday tasks like assisting him to the car and getting him into bed.
She said that in the future, she wants to work with people who are disadvantaged because of the everyday struggle she witnessed her brother endure. She said, “It has made me more aware of the challenges that come up with being disabled.”
Physical conditions such as spina bifida and MD are not the only diseases that have affected the loved ones of MVC students.
Destinee Quinn, a 22-year-old Special Education major, has a cousin with autism. When she was initially told the news, Destinee said she was shocked but admitted that there were a number of signs that showed that something was different about him. She said she noticed certain mannerisms, such as a lack of desire to socialize and his lack of affection. These were small signs that led Destinee to believe something was special about her relative.
Later when Destinee was in college and it came time to choose a career path, she decided to major in special education because she has a lot of patience with children. Her cousin’s disability intrigued her curiosity in autism and ultimately led to her special passion for those children who need a little more attention than others.
Most people view being handicapped as a stigma that disadvantaged people hold. The other side of the scale would say that a disability can also be the motivation that someone needs.
Students at Missouri Valley College have been influenced by someone with a disability in a variety of ways, from helping with their career paths to becoming more empathetic.
While society’s outlook on being physically or mentally handicapped is becoming more supportive all the time, some individuals can turn their own struggles or the challenges of others into an incentive for impacting society by opening new doors that are currently closed to the less fortunate.