To celebrate my mother’s 60th birthday last Friday (March 20), we had a fun-filled weekend with family and food. Her mom, sister and brother-in-law came to visit. We took her to Hominy Grill, which is one of her favorite restaurants.
My mother is one of my biggest supporters. She has helped me overcome the challenges of living with a spinal cord injury. Read the interview below where she shares her perspective as a mother of a child with a physical disability.
1. What were your first thoughts when you realized your son was paralyzed after the car accident?
I suffered a severe head injury and was in a coma for several weeks before I realized Alex had been injured. Once I woke up and saw him in intensive care and he smiled when he recognized me, I was overjoyed. As a pediatrician I had taken care of children with multiple injuries or disabilities, so I was just grateful and I thanked God that he was alive.
2. Who was part of your support system when learning about programs and services for people with disabilities?
All the doctors, nurses, and specialists, the rehab team, physical and occupational therapists helped Alex heal during his 6 month hospitalization after the accident. His early education was at the Charles Webb Center followed by special education services through Charleston County public schools. As a high school student SC Vocational Rehab services were available. Community resources included the department of disabilities and special needs, HASCI, the SC Spinal Cord Injury Association support group, newsletters, disability Resource Center, and programs for adults with disabilities. Of course, every support system includes family, friends, and our church family.
3. Has having a child with a physical disability changed your role as a physician?
Absolutely! I thought I was an empathetic pediatrician before the accident, but after taking care of my own child’s special needs, I became more observant and more vocal about the needs of my patients. Most families don’t know how to maneuver in the medical system and I was able help them identify resources.
4. Has anything surprised you, good or bad, about having a child with a spinal cord injury?
I wondered if Alex would become angry about his injury after he was old enough to understand what happened. Even as a young boy, he accepted the fact that some children were different. He told me, “God made some walking children and some wheelchair children”. He has taken on all challenges with a motivated spirit.
5. Why is independence important for your son?
Independence is important for survival in today’s world. Disabled persons should grow up confident in their abilities. Learning to drive an adapted vehicle has allowed Alex the freedom to have a job, further his education, and participate in community activities.
6. What advice would you give to other parents with a child with a physical disability?
I recommend parents teach their children to set goals and dreams and to give them the opportunity and resources to achieve their goals. We all have to survive in this world and some of us have different obstacles to overcome. For my patients with sickle cell disease, it is figuring out how to be successful students and adults despite having to live with a blood disorder.
7. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I’m proud to be Alex’s mother because of his personality and attitude. He doesn’t worry and complain, which makes it easy to take care of him. Alex enjoys being an advocate for disabled persons and he has worked hard to improve access to services in the Charleston community.