Today we get to meet a woman who is almost my age (Gretchen's) and who has Spina Bifida! That the Internet and places like Facebook put me in contact with people like Michelle is a HUGE blessing in my life!
I was born in 1971 - the early days of Spina Bifida. I was born with Myelomeningocele (L4/L5) and hydrocephalus. Not long before I was born, most babies with SB died due to either infection caused by their spinal cord not being surgically closed after birth or hydrocephalus. I was truly born at the right time! Another thing that worked in my favor was being born in Chicago and Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago was pretty much the birthplace for the treatment of babies born with SB. In fact, the Spina Bifida Association of America started off in Chicago with just a few parents. Amazing what a grassroots effort can turn into.
I had about 30 surgeries by the time I was 10 years old. Thankfully, the majority of those were done before age 6 so I don't remember much. Even though I had many surgeries and physical issues growing up, I feel I had a pretty typical childhood. I went to a regular school and attended regular (mainstreamed) classes, had lots of friends, went to summer camp, played with my sisters, fought with my sisters, loved playing with my dolls, and loved to swim. I also went on many trips with my family - California, Mexico, Florida, Ireland. My parents did their best to not let my having Spina Bifida keep me down - even with my leg braces and crutches.
As I grew up, I always knew I would be independent and live on my own. My parents told me so as I grew up, so I had no other frame of thought. I got my first job at 16 being an annoying telemarketer, learned how to drive at 18 and moved out when I was 25. I decided to move to Florida with a friend from high school and so I quit the job I had the time (working in a law firm) and packed up my car and drove down here in January 1997. I have been here ever since! There really is no comparison to the weather from Florida to Chicago. Florida wins hands down!! Moving down here was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. It wasn't (and isn't) always easy, but so worth it. I wouldn't change my decision to move out for anything. I still go back home for Christmas and usually in the summer and my family comes visit me. It's a nice arrangement!
My most recent job I had was at a small family-owned company that made and installed counter tops. I was their production coordinator. Unfortunately, I developed a severe pressure wound 4 years ago that required many lengthy hospital stays, so I had to resign and go on Disability. My 20 year work history worked in my favor though, as I make much more than people who are on Disability and have never worked. My wound is finally healed and I'm hoping to be back working in 2012. I miss working and making my own money!
Life with spina bifida can be difficult at times, but every life is presented with challenges and hardships. Mine just happen to be physical. As strange as it may sound, I am grateful for that. There are many more wonderful things about my life than negative things. I try to remind myself of that fact everyday.
Thank you Michelle for sharing your life with us!