Challenge Accepted

by Justin Spaeth

May 14th 1997.

A day that would change my life forever. A day my family will never forget.

This day was the day I was born, it seemed like everything was going according to the plan the doctors had laid out, except one major detail I was left in the womb for too long, and when I came out, I was given too much oxygen which seems like a minor detail but would change my life forever.

My family didn’t think anything of it until I was 3 years old and wasn’t attempting to talk or walk. I went to several different pediatricians and specialists and all but one said that I was just a “late-bloomer” and would start talking and walking in no time. That one pediatrician I went to that gave my family a different answer than all the rest, looked at the lines in the palms of my hands and could immediately tell I had cerebral palsy.

My family wanted to doubt the pediatrician, but as I got older, there were more signs pointing towards her diagnosis being spot on.

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Around my 4th birthday, my mother and father’s relationship hit a wall. She obviously didn’t want to bare with the fact that she would have to take care of a son with a disability, so she left, and I haven’t seen or heard from her since.

I couldn’t receive my surgeries needed to correct my cerebral palsy until I was 7 years old, and even then there was still doubt if I would ever walk unassisted and if this surgery would even help reach this goal.

Either way I was willing to take a chance and do whatever it took to defy the odds and prove to the doctors that I am different from all the rest. I would fight harder than anyone has ever fought before and I will walk on my own!

Some didn’t believe me, but those who were skeptical would just have to watch me.

It was late September 2004 that I was finally able to go through surgery and, needless to say from the support I received from my family and friends I was ready! I may have been extremely scared, but I never showed my fear. I kept it all inside so no one would worry about me because I knew in the end that this surgery meant a lot to my life going forward.

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It was the difference between possibly walking or using a wheelchair for the rest of my life. It was frightening, but I was ready to take that chance to change my life for the better.

After 14 surgeries (nine all at once) and over 1000 stitches I was on the right track towards my goal but there was a long way to go. I went through numbers of physical tests, physical therapists and training. I would do everything the physical therapists would ask me to do, and sometimes I would do it two or three times more than recommended.

Most nights I would go to bed in so much pain that I couldn’t sleep but I refused to take any pain medicine because I told myself I’m strong and I can fight through this physical pain.

The physical pain was nothing compared to the emotional pain I received from my peers the first few years of elementary school. I would get questions like, “Why can’t you walk right?” “Why do you walk so weird?” “Why can’t you run?”

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Questions like that don’t bother me today, but at a young age they took a toll on me because I felt like an outcast. I felt like people were treating me differently just because of my disability and I hated it, but I also didn’t think I could do anything about it.

I would always think to myself why are people treating me differently, I am no different than they are.

I didn’t choose this disability I was born with it.

Yet,  back then I felt like I was paying the price for being born with it, in reality it was a blessing in disguise.

Still, I would spend my nights praying that I would one day walk “normally” like the other kids and be treated just like they were. I just really wanted to know how it felt to be treated normally with respect and dignity and not like I was: belittled by all of my peers.

At that point, I came to a realization either I sit back, do nothing about it, and feel sorry for myself, or I could persevere and move forward and make an impact in the world one day, one person at a time. I chose the latter.

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I’m 18 now, and now that I look back at everything that I have been through I wouldn’t change anything in my life for the world. I touch the lives of those around me and those I encounter on a daily basis and that’s a great feeling.

I never give up until I reach my goal, and when I reach that goal I set my sights towards a higher more challenging goal so I learn and grow as I keep surpassing every goal I set.

I’ve never know the meaning of no or can’t because yes I can do anything I set my mind to. Sure it may take longer or may be different from someone else’s way but I will eventually do anything I set my mind to.

I have a fantastic support system all the way from my family to my friends to my BROTHERS, and to my Dynasty family and its members, without them I probably wouldn’t of made it through 75 percent of my situations throughout my life.

I am extremely grateful for the base and foundation I have in my father, grandfather and uncle. Without their support and guidance I wouldn’t be half the man I am today. The love and support of my grandmother, who has been the closest thing to a mom I have ever had, is heaven sent and I am truly appreciative of her.

I do everything in my power to make everyone I encounter on a daily basis smile and know that they have at least one person to count on in their life if needed. I would do anything for anyone, and that is a tremendous gift I have been given to be able to feel that and do that for people.

I try to be that inspiring force that leads people to try new things and go for their dreams, If you can believe, it you can achieve it!

Never give up on yourself and always stay true to what you believe in because your possibilities in life are endless no matter what obstacles stand in your way, you can persevere through anything

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