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As long as I can remember, I have always been referred to as' the kid with a disability.' I was diagnosed with hemiplegia, a disorder in which one side of the body is paralysed after a stroke I had on the fourth day after I was born. The doctors gave me a heart monitor when I was discharged, because my heart rate could drop to a lower level, which was very critical for my health. The specialists had also told my parents that because my left peripheral vision was impaired, I would not walk or have sight. Thankfully, my parents took me to several physical and occupational therapies every 5 days a week till middle school which enabled me to walk and see.
When I was seven, something unfortunate happened to me. While asleep one night, I had a seizure. All of a sudden I could feel my heart racing rapidly with my body shaking. When I opened my eyes, I could see only half the room with blurred imaginary images. I got scared and started shouting, “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” All I could remember is lying on my dad’s lap in the hospital the following morning. My dad and mom told me later that my sister was the one who noticed I was half dead the following morning and informed them to call an ambulance. If it were not for her, I would not be alive today. After the incident, I managed to go back to my normal routine, and have never experienced another seizure episode.
My condition has made many people despise me. When I would go to school, many students, especially those in preschool, would laugh at me; I guess they never knew how to react to my disability. Some of my classmates teased me of being “abnormal” while some literary avoided associating with me. I would fear walking out of my house to avoid any confrontation with those who publicly whispered or laughed at me. I lost my self-worth and became isolated from others since I developed the perception that I was not worthy of living. At school, I hid myself during lunch breaks where no one could tease or laugh at me. But within me, I still had hope that one day I will be accepted by the cruel world.
When I was 16, I was given the opportunity to talk about my experience as a special need student at the upper school town hall. For the first time, I felt confident to share my story. I narrated to them how my disability came to be and the challenges I have dealt with. The most important thing I addressed was my value for life and my abilities just like other normal students. Immediately I completed narrating my story, people applauded me for being brave. My classmates who always ignored me came up to apologize for being cruel. I never felt that safe all my life; I knew then that my hemiplegia was not such a big problem. I had since then taken part in two studies, stem cells reinfusion at Duke University and biofeedback study at USC, with the aim of finding cure to individuals having disabilities like me.
I have realized that the only person I need to change is myself. I need to acknowledge the fact that not everyone can accept me the way I am, and that I would have to appreciate myself before others recognize that. I also need to recognize that “disability is not inability” since I am able to help my family with house chores and engage in social activities with my friends. Changing my view of life will help me ignore the criticisms I have witnessed through my lifetime. I believe that by loving myself, others would learn to appreciate me and judge me based on my abilities instead of my appearance.
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