The obstacle that I have worked to overcome started when I was just four months old. I experienced a stroke that left the left side of my body paralyzed. The doctors said there was a possibility that I would never walk and do many of the activities that others could do.

When I had grown to the age that I could better understand what the deficits of a stroke meant to my future, I was determined to walk, work on the movement of my arm, better my speech and correct my eyesight. As I continued to work on my left side, I went to physical and occupational therapy for years. The therapy helped with walking and the function of my leg but my left arm did not improve much. Today, my left arm still has very little function.

While I was in elementary school I started having seizures. My parents and I knew that this was always a possibility due to the stroke but was hoping for the best. The kids in my class did not understand and were afraid of the seizures so they treated me differently. I was hurt by their comments and I hated myself for being this way. As much as I hated the comments and being treated differently, I learned to be selfless and think of others. Because I was different, I lost some friends along the way which was difficult. During that time, one of the factors that triggered my seizures were temperature extremes, so I could only go out to recess if it was between 50 to 70 degrees outside. We finally found medications to control my seizures.

I learned to find alternate ways to accomplish two-handed jobs. It brought me joy to know that I could do things that others could do and I gained courage to try more and do all I could do. During my middle and high school years, things improved. I made friends and learned to play the trumpet. I joined the marching band, which was intimidating, but I wanted the opportunity to test my limits. Summer band was six days a week, for 5 or 6 hours a day, with temperatures over one hundred degrees. I was able to withstand the scorching heat!

The next challenge was holding the trumpet up. Because my left hand is weaker than my right hand and has very little function, it was difficult to hold the trumpet. All of that changed when my band director, Mr. Bradshaw, and a few other band directors came together to find a way for me to hold my instrument. They tied two rubber elastics together and put it underneath a valve cover which wrapped around the valves. I could put my wrist in the elastics which then held my wrist against the trumpet and helped to hold the weight of my instrument. It was amazing. It was then that I realized I never hated my arm and realized I was happy with the person I was becoming.

There is a quote I have taken to heart from the movie entitled, The Greatest Showman, which is “You were never meant to fit in. You were born to stand out and change the world”. I believe you can change the world if you believe you can. Everybody is their own person, unique and wonderful. The challenges you have experienced are the things that make you better. Just because you have had a stroke or other challenges, it does not make you any less beautiful or brave… it makes you more so. You were born to change the world for the better. I have accepted myself for who I am. At times I still have trouble with belonging but I know my family and my true friends will always be with me, encouraging me and loving me for the person I am. Everyone is born to stand out as I have learned throughout my life so far.