Hi my name is Angela.  I just turned 20-years-old.  I have Cerbral Palsy, and I have used a wheelchair all my life. Until this year, I never viewed this as a problem nor did I suspect that anyone else might feel like my chair was a problem. However, I recently started going to a private Christian college.  The good thing is that no one here teases me. In addition,  I am enjoying the new found freedom of being away from home. I like being able to make decisions completely on my own. 

The annoying part is that my friends are too nice.  You heard me right--they are too nice!  Everyone wants to see me "healed" or made "normal." They offer  to pray  over me a lot.  At one point they made me stand until my legs felt like they were going to fall off.  It was so embarrassing, because while someone was helping me stand, the rest of the people at the  church I was visiting were praying for my healing.  I wanted to disappear when they were done because I still needed my chair. 

You may be wondering why I need a wheelchair if I can stand.  Well when it comes to walking, and to some extent eating, my brain decided to stop learning these skills when I was about 9-months-old. This means I can only walk a very short distance, and then only if I have something to hold on to.  It also means that eating, especially with a spoon, can get messy.  I hate it when people in restaurants stare at me because my face is a mess. 

I sometimes feel like no one understands all of who I am. On one side of the coin, many people tell me that they want to learn to see me and not my disability.  However, being disabled is part of what makes me who I am.  It is not the whole puzzle but it is a fairly large piece of it. On the other side of the coin,  there are those (like the people in the restaurants)  who can't see past my C.P. to discover the rest of who I am.

Some of the things that make up the rest of the puzzle are my love and devotion to God. Right now, I am planning to be a missionary. I also have a passion for working with  children and studying medicine  (especially virology and genetics.) I am very interested in helping kids with Cystic Fibrosis.  (so if you have CF and would like a pen-pal, 
just send me a note!) Lets see, anything else? Oh yeah,  all of my friends tell me I have a gift for learning foreign languages. Eventually, I hope to combine my interests and talents and become a medical missionary.

Thanks for reading my story, Angela

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Joan Fleitas, Ed.D., R.N.
Associate Professor of Nursing, Lehman College, CUNY
Bronx, New York 10468

Last updated: November 14, 2004