When my twin brother Ryan and I were born prematurely both of us were 3 lbs and over two months early. I was diagnosed with moderate Cerebral Palsy (CP) at birth. Which means I have a brain hemorrhage in a very rare spot. My Cerebral Palsy affects my entire right side. When I was 22 years old I was diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS). POTS means my heart rate goes very high and if I stand up or change positions too fast I pass out and my blood pressure goes very low. My Cerebral Palsy makes my POTS even more challenging. When I was 24 years old I was diagnosed with Epilepsy. Epilepsy (seizures) my Epilepsy spot is right next to my brain hemorrhage. Which makes my Epilepsy even more challenging. On top of me having Cerebral Palsy and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. I have to carry my emergency seizure medicine and wear my Apple Watch at all times. My medical team at (St. Charles Hospital) is amazing. They go above and beyond for me. I don’t know where I would be with them. At every stage of my life, I learn and accept that my life is harder than typical people’s before all of my diagnoses. But that doesn’t stop me. Even with all of my diagnoses I’m still not letting them hold me back from what I do with my life.
2 Education/Molly: All of my schooling was very challenging but I did it. Thank God that Individualized Education (IEP) was so detailed and grew with me. From Elementary school to College, I had to work twice as hard as my peers because of all of my learning disabilities as well as my diagnoses. Resource room teachers from Elementary school to High school were great at realizing that I was having trouble and trying to find a solution. I would always ask the teacher if I was having trouble or if they could tell me facial expressions. As I entered Junior school and High school the material got because I was in Regents level classes. Which meant more homework and tests. My stress levels increased. But they were almost therapists to me because they would try to find a solution. If that didn’t work they would have a meeting with my teacher. Between myself, my resource room teacher, and my class teacher we would usually find a solution or have extra accommodation for that class. By Senior year my IEP was the size of a textbook with all of my accommodations. Once I entered College for my Bachelor’s Degree I had to find a College that had a great disability program. If they didn’t have that program I wouldn’t succeed. If I had a problem with a teacher, even after I asked the teacher. They would tell the teacher and help to find a solution. I even had a guidance counselor (Leighann) that was my lifeline. I would email her every day, and I would have a weekly meeting with her. If I didn’t have I didn’t her wouldn’t have been successful. When I got my Master’s Degree my College also had a great disability program and my teachers would email me, to see if I was having any problems with the material. From Elementary school to graduating with my Master’s Degree I went to a lot of tutoring and extra help sessions to better understand the material. Since graduating with my Master’s Degree it’s been very difficult for me to find a job with all of my diagnoses. I’m currently trying to get a job with the government in healthcare administration and leadership, that’s what my degrees are. When I was in College I was suicidal from all of the homework, tests, and stress. My therapist told me to bond with my rescue dog, Molly, which helped a ton. Without bonding with her. There’s no doubt in my mind, Coach Steve, Coach Bob, Chloe, Charmaine, Leighann, and my medical team’s minds that I wouldn’t be alive today. During this time I joined Rolling Thunder Special Needs Program Para-Athletics without the head Coaches Steve and Bob, Chloe and Charmaine watched out to see if I was displaying any suicidal signs during practice, road races, and track meets I joined this Track and Field Team help me feel included without any judgment because everyone understands what I was through. They listened to me and did everything I needed to still be alive. Even when Molly passed during the Coronavirus-19 Pandemic, everyone was there for them checking in on me to see if I was okay and not displaying any suicidal signs. Without all of these people and Molly, I would’ve committed suicide. That’s another of the many reasons why I’m so appreciative of these people because they didn’t have but they wanted to.
3 Obstacles To Challenges /Training For Summer Paralympics Paris 2024/Field Hockey:
I’ve had many obstacles in my life. My medical team, Physical Therapists, and Occupational Therapists have been there the whole time. They have helped me turn everyday life activities that were insanely hard for me that turned into challenges because It’s very hard for me to use my right limbs, right fingers, and right toes even though I was stubborn and didn’t want to do them. But I had to be able to function in activities of daily life and be a successful functional person in society. I had to be successful to meet every goal the way they wanted which was “the correct way” or I failed the goal and had to keep working on the goal. I tried to find a shortcut for every goal but it didn’t work whatsoever. Even though all of these goals were hard to meet, I am a successful functional person in society. Thanks to their great work and for handling my stubbornness.
As for my training for The Summer Paralympic Games in Paris 2024 for Track and Field. My Track and Field Team is (Rolling Thunder Special Needs Program Para-Athletics) which is for disabled athletes, most of my teammates have Autism. The head coaches are Steve and Bob. There have been so many obstacles because of all of my diagnoses. Trying to figure out a way that I could successfully run without falling, passing out, or having a seizure. At every practice, I wear my helmet to help in case of emergency. But I didn’t give up and my coaches and pacers on my team didn’t either. Trying to successfully finish practice has also been an obstacle to my safety. I have to have modified practice, wear my helmet, have extra water breaks, and have to wear cooling towels when it’s hot out in case I have an emergency. Even use Quench Gum and Jelly Belly Sport Beans before and during every practice, road races, and track meet. To help me not have an emergency. All of my coaches and my pacers know my faces when I display those symptoms that I’m about to pass out or have a seizure. Another obstacle that turned into a challenge was running road
races successfully and not falling, passing out, or having a seizure. When I run road races I have my two pacers (Chloe and Charmaine) with me. One pacer is in front of me watching it to see if there’s a curb, a pothole, or if the road is uneven. My other pacer is next to me. I have to wear my leg brace, water hydration backpack, and helmet. In case anything happens to me. As well, in case I have a seizure they were taught how to give me my emergency seizure medication. That was difficult to solve, especially for my safety. My two pacers are amazing for keeping me safe. Even during the road race, they will not tell me what mile we’re at. They will only look at my Apple Watch which displays my heart rate. They’re constantly looking at my face to see if I’m about to pass out or have a seizure. Because they know my faces when I display those symptoms.
In terms of throwing the Shot Put and Discus that was a challenge trying to figure out how I would hold them and successfully throw them. My coaches and I figured out a way that works for me. As of writing, I’m on the Long Island Track and Field Team and the New York State Track and Field Team which I was surprised about. But it’s all because of my hard work. Of course, all my coaches go the extra mile. But didn’t any of these challenges stop me from quitting the team. I’m indebted to all of my coaches for them not giving up on me. I didn’t stop because it was an obstacle for me. All of these obstacles have helped me compete in track meets, most of them I’m competing against typical athletes.
Specifically, Training for The Summer Paralympic Games in Paris 2024 for Track and Field has been a challenge because I have to put in a ton of more work at practice, during the Road Races, and I have extra workouts that my other teammates don’t have. I have to a Paralympic Standards for the Cerebral Palsy (CP) category to be considered to compete in The Summer Paralympic Games in Paris 2024. Those Paralympic Standards for 100 meters, 200 meters, and Shot Put are very challenging, especially having moderate Cerebral Palsy (CP) because of the modifications I had to figure out and master to try to meet those Paralympic Standards as of this moment I’m writing this am I very close of meeting those Paralympic Standards. Each of my coaches, my pacers, and my personal I’m so thankful for to have them in my life. I’m currently 0.10 seconds off of the CP Paralympic standard for the 100 meters dash. I’m currently 15 seconds off of the CP Paralympic standard for the 200 meters dash. I’m 1.22 meters off of the CP Paralympic standard for the Shot Put. I’m currently 9 meters off the CP Paralympic standard for Discus. Running my last 5K (3.1 miles) road race I got a Personal Record by over 4 minutes.
I also have a personal trainer (Ryan) from (Whit Fit/Oompf Fit-Club) helping to increase my strength on both sides of my body. Helping me enhance my sprinting form. He has done the same thing with my Shot Put and Discus form. Having me practice these skills during every session. These sessions aren’t easy at all. But my favorite exercise is pulling the sled. As I’m writing this, the most weight I pulled on the sled is 315 lbs. My best pulling the sled while sprinting is 220 lbs. As of me writing this. Pulling the sled makes me so happy and my trainer knows it. But it’s super challenging especially since my Cerebral Palsy right side doesn’t work as well as my non-affected side in every exercise. Especially my Cerebral Palsy fingers because it’s hard to hold the grips on all of the machines that I have use special grips that I can hold on to while doing strength exercises. I have no control of my right fingers and my right toes due to my Cerebral Palsy right side while also using machines hard to use. My trainer has to do twice the amount of work trying to modify everything because of my Cerebral Palsy but he’s willing to do it for me to achieve my goals. Which he doesn’t have to do. Again he goes the extra mile which I’m thankful for.
I also play Field Hockey for (Long Island Field Hockey on their Field Hockey 4 All Team). That’s been an obstacle as well trying to figure out how to hold the Field Hockey stick with only my left arm because I can’t grip the Field Hockey stick with my right arm. Figuring out how to hold the stick, hit the ball, and run at the same time was a challenge to master. I’m grateful to my head coaches (Danielle and Mallory) for helping me to figure out how to play the game safely. I also have to wear my leg brace, my helmet, and a sports sling on my right arm since I can’t hold the stick, during practices and tournaments. I also made the National Disabled Program Field Hockey Team. I was shocked that I made the team. But I didn’t give up and neither did they.
Having relationships with everyone that I wrote about in these blogs have been there in the happy times in my life as well the dark times of life. They were all listening to me, and were willing to find a solution, all at the time being so supportive it’s not even funny. I know that no one of the people had to do that but they were happy to do it. I will have a relationship with them. I have no doubt they will do anything for me and that’s why they will have a special part in my heart. There’s no way I’ll ever be able to repay them. I’m so thankful and blessed beyond belief to have all of them in my life and will have a relationship with them for the rest of my life.