This summer, I accomplished a dream that few people thought was possible. I was able to walk across the stage to get my high school diploma and then walk down the aisle with my graduating class at Kennedy Krieger High School. Looking out in the crowd to see my mom and friends and teachers standing and clapping for me--it was a moment I'll never forget.
I have cerebral palsy. When I was born, my umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck so tightly that the right side of my brain was injured. This means that I have a hard time getting my muscles to respond to what I want them to do.
I first started coming to Kennedy Krieger when I was six months old. I had years of speech therapy, and I went to public school in Baltimore County. Before this year, I hadn't walked since I was in the fifth grade. Since I had hip replacement surgery in 2001, my goal has been to walk again. About a year ago, I started going to the Movements Disorder Clinic at Kennedy Krieger, and that's where I really started working towards this goal. There were lots of people who thought that I wouldn't be able to do it, who told me not to expect too much. Even my mom had her doubts, but she didn't make them known.
I'm an energetic, happy guy, but when people told me that I wouldn't be able to walk, it hurt me. My friends said I should just prove people wrong. So, I kept working and working. Each time I walked out of physical therapy, I cried, but then I would smile. I would think, Bring it on!
I still have goals, and I still come to physical therapy. On July 1, I started in the supportive employment program with Abilities Network. I want to work with kids that have disabilities like mine. I would also like to work at a radio station and write songs. One of the songs I've written is called "Leave My Wheelchair Behind."
For an entire year, physical therapy was my job; it was my passion. I like to think of it like Cal Ripken, Jr. Even though he accomplished things that people thought were impossible, it was his job to play great baseball. I don't get a paycheck to do physical therapy, but in a sense I get paid very well. When I walked across the stage to receive my diploma, it was like a stadium of fans was cheering for me.
It was hard work to walk on graduation night, but I knew that I had my family and the people at Kennedy Krieger behind me with each step.
--As told to Laura Laing by Shane Hargest
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