Mom tackles the hard questions
By Candi Carter Olson, assistant professor of media & society at USU
March 25 is National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day. Cerebral Palsy is an umbrella term for a number of non-progressive, non-genetic, non-communicative disorders that affect a person’s movement and muscle control. According to United Cerebral Palsy, there are 800,000 people living with CP in the United States, and an additional 10,000 babies born each year will eventually be diagnosed with CP. My son Gabriel was one of the 10,000 babies born in 2007. He and his identical twin brother, Christopher, were born 10 weeks premature because of complications from a Twin-To-Twin Transfusion Syndrome pregnancy. In February 2015, Gabriel asked me a question that I knew we’d have to face some day, but I wasn’t prepared for it yet. In a fit of frustration, he stomped his foot and said, “Why did I have to be born with Cerebral Palsy?” I had no response at the time, so I’ve written the following letter for the next time I have to answer him.
You asked, “Why did I have to be born with Cerebral Palsy?” And my simple answer is, “I don’t know.” I can tell you that you had several risk factors, including being born too early, surviving as the recipient twin from a Twin-To-Twin Transfusion Syndrome pregnancy, struggling to breath after you were born and needing a ventilator, taking in multiple blood transfusions, and enduring multiple infections while you were in the NICU. I can tell you all of these things, but they still don’t answer the question.
May I, instead, answer, “What does having Cerebral Palsy mean for me?” My answer is, “Everything and nothing all at once.”