Saturday, September 09, 2006

"I felt like an eagle"

(Two of my aunt’s children have spina bifida (both are adopted, so there is no genetic link to our own unborn baby boy’s spina bifida). I haven’t had the courage to call and talk to her yet--I’m still feeling tender and raw over the discovery, and I’m not yet ready to face it to that extent. Fortunately, she understands, and my mother says she’s ready to talk with me whenever I’m ready. I’m going home for a visit in two weeks (to help my mother pick out a headstone for my father’s grave, because I’m the geologist and I know the most about rocks), and I’ll probably meet with my aunt then. My mother, of course, has been talking to my aunt about our baby, and sharing some of the stories with me secondhand. This story is about the older of my aunt’s sons with spina bifida, Aaron.)

Aaron has finally found his niche in life--in a skate park, doing wild and crazy (not to mention dangerous) stunts. This is not unusual for a teenager, but Aaron’s situation is a little different. He is paralyzed from the waist down, and confined to a wheelchair. For the last two years, he has been going to the concrete skate parks and trying all the tricks he can think of--he practices with skateboarders and dirt-bikers. He loves it, and it shows in his attitude toward life.

Aaron’s crazy tricks caught the attention of the wheelchair company Colours Wheelchair, and they have taken him under their wing (giving him a wheelchair for free, and then, when he thrashed it to bits, replaced it with one built to his specifications). In July, Aaron made “wheelchair history” by landing the first airborne backflip in a wheelchair. This may even be Guinness Book of World Records stuff! This type of wheelchair-skateboarding (Aaron calls it “hard-core sitting”) is starting to catch on, and, who knows, it may even become an event in the Para-Olympics*. On Colours' website, they have a short video of some of Aaron’s crazy tricks. (Click on Aaron Fotheringham--and notice that almost everywhere Aaron is doing these things, he’s the only one in a wheelchair. Everyone else is on bikes and skateboards.)

If you go watch the video, pay special attention to the last bit. The little boy in the wheelchair is a friend of Aaron’s little brother. His family has had a hard time accepting their son’s spina bifida disabilities--they resisted getting him a wheelchair, even though it was recommended to give him far greater mobility than his leg braces. However, after hearing about some of the stuff Aaron can do, and seeing some of the video that had been shot, the mother of this young boy called my aunt and asked if Aaron would be willing to show her son how to really use the wheelchair they were getting him. Aaron did a couple of simple things with this boy, and then eventually took him to the skate park. They did very simple, very gentle, but very fun tricks together. When they were done at the skate park that night, this little boy told his mother, “I felt like an eagle.”

This is what Aaron wants to do “when he grows up”. He wants to help other children with disabilities to feel like “eagles”. This is what I want to do with my own little boy--to teach him not be earthbound and restricted because of his challenges. I don’t know how to do it, yet. But I am so grateful for Aaron’s example, for his parents’ examples, in showing me it can be done. We can teach our little baby how to fly.

(*Edited for correction--Originally I mistakenly wrote "Special Olympics" instead of "Para-Olympics". The Special Olympics are for mentally disabled athletes, the Para-Olympics are for physically disabled athletes. BIG difference, in that in the Special Olympics emphasis is placed on participation, and the Para-Olympics are as competitive as the more famous Olympics. Thanks to emailer Kent for pointing out my mistake!)


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  • AWESOME and inspiring. Thanks.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/09/2006 8:59 PM  

  • Wow. I second J's comments. Awesome and inspiring. Your baby is blessed to have you two as parents!

    By Blogger m_and_m, at 9/10/2006 12:16 AM  

  • Very nice. I wish you all the best.

    By Blogger Eric Nielson, at 9/11/2006 8:45 AM  

  • Fantastic!

    By Blogger Scott Hinrichs, at 9/11/2006 12:58 PM  

  • Very cool video. Wish I could do some of that stuff on my skateboard. That much cooler in a wheelchair.

    By Blogger JandS Morgan, at 9/11/2006 11:39 PM  

  • I am so grateful for the supportive comments so many have made--it's such a thrill to see names that I recognize from my favorite commentors and bloggers, and to feel your love and prayers. We are so blessed in our family and friends. Thank you for bringing a grateful tear to my eye.

    By Blogger Keryn, at 9/12/2006 6:54 PM  

  • inspiring! i recently caught a segment on "the today show," perhaps from september 21 or 22? i've googled and can't find it. anyhow, there was a young man on who doesn't have much use of his legs and who uses crutches. he took up dancing and invented his own form of breakdancing; they call him "crazy legs." he tosses the crutches down and goes to town. and it's amazing! he does motivational appearances and they showed him attending a school for the mentally and physically disabled. my heart swelled as they showed a paraplegic boy of about six leap right out of his wheelchair and start dancing on the gym mat. it was incredible! i wish i could track down the story.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/06/2006 10:29 AM  

  • We have an interview with Aaron Fotheringham (the first person to do a backflip in a wheelchair) on our Disability Website. Check it out. Gene

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/23/2006 1:38 AM  

  • Thanks, Gene. Here is a direct link to the interview with Aaron Fotheringham you mentioned.

    By Blogger Bradley Ross, at 12/23/2006 11:56 AM  

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