It looks like I’m on an interviewing kick! My cousin Erin emailed me last week about one of her college classes. She’s studying education and wanted to interview me for a paper she was writing — well, who was I to say no? It was a topic I knew all too well: My disability and adaptive devices. I thought you’d enjoy reading a bit about my formative years in school, friends, so here’s a little peek at our interview…
How many surgeries have you had during your lifetime?
I’ve had 26 surgeries — the last one when I was 15. The majority of them have been to straighten my joints of my hands, feet and knees. I’ve also had surgery to correct scoliosis and brain surgery when my spine began compressing my brain stem.
What daily activities do you find are influenced by Freeman-Sheldon Syndrome?
My daily self-care is influenced — showering, dressing, meal preparation. Transportation is also affected, but luckily DeKalb has a wonderful handicapped-accessible bus system, so I can go places during the day, which allows me to be more independent.
What Assistive Tech devices did you use when you where a child? (Wheelchair, walker, type aid etc. It can be low tech items too like a bath chair or a grabber tool)
I used a variety of assistive devices growing up. These devices not only helped me medically, but also developmentally and socially. After my surgeries, I sometimes had to wear splints — though as a kid, I hated them — and I remember how excited I was when I got my first motorized wheelchair. My mom says that I kept thanking her for getting it for me because I could keep up with the other kids. For once, I didn’t feel so different — I was just like the other kids playing on the playground or in the gym. I also got my first shortly after I started walking, which, because of my FSS, didn’t happen until I was around 4.
Did you need any devices for school?
I used my wheelchair most of the day and also met with an occupational and physical therapist; I was taken out of class for those sessions. They were great for charting my progress and making sure I had everything I needed to succeed both inside and outside the classroom.
Were your teachers helping you get AT devices you might have required?
YES! My teachers were always so great. I also had an individual aide from kindergarten through high school, mainly for activities of daily living and any other assistance I might need.
Did you or your parents do research on AT devices on your own to find what might work best for you?
My parents were always my biggest advocates, both when it came to my disability and my experiences in school. They got me my first motorized wheelchair and never let me use my disability as a crutch or an excuse not to try my best.
How much was your wheelchair?
Oh, buying a wheelchair, surprisingly, is like buying a new car. You go to a showroom and look at all sorts of models and figure out if it needs any sort of customization, like the special seat I have on mine. The wheelchair I have now is around $3,500.
How often does it need maintenance?
Thankfully, technology has come a long way! It used to be that my wheelchair needed regular maintenance — it seemed like the motor was always breaking down. I was lucky that my dad always knew just how to fix it! My wheelchair now is super awesome and actually hasn’t required any maintenance in the few years I’ve had it. I’ve had to replace the battery every year or so, but that’s it — knock on wood! 🙂
What AT devices do you use now?
Obviously, the main device I use now is my wheelchair. I don’t know where I’d be without it! I also have a walker, which I need to use more, especially for exercise. For showering, I use a bath chair, which makes it really easy. We also had a ramp installed coming into the house from the garage so I can get in and out by myself.
If you were to design your own house, what would it include to be more accessible to you? (lower counters, wide halls, ramps, elevators, lifts to get in and out of the tub etc.)
That’s a funny questions, because my mom and I are always saying, “Why didn’t we get this when we bought this house…” We should have been thinking more about how to make this house more disability friendly. If I could design my dream house, I’d get lower counters and cabinets for cooking and perhaps a walk-in shower with one of those big seats.
What do you think about buildings that are not wheel chair accessible? How does this the influence the independence an individual has?
Honestly, it boggles my mind every time I come across a building that isn’t wheelchair accessible. The Americans With Disabilities Act is nothing new and it can be extremely frustrating for people who have worked so hard for independence. My parents have taught me the value of independence my entire life and overall, society has come a long way in being a more inclusive culture, but there are still some obstacles we need to overcome.
Is there any AT device you wish you had to assist in daily life? (Car lift etc.)
We’ve decided that when we get our next car, we’re going to hopefully get a lift with it. My mom has become a pro at putting my wheelchair in the car, but it’s always good to plan ahead.
Thanks for the awesome interview, Erin, and good luck on that paper! xoxo
Sweet Posy Dreams says
Nice interview. You have such a great attitude.
Twinkle Terrior says
Seriously – you were the cutest little kid ever !! LOVE the pics. I always notice how you have the cutest happiest look on your face! (still cute as a button). It's so funny how much you love Target !!! My niece who is in a wheel chair (and is 24 now) used to love going to Target with me. All the other kids in the family hated "errands" but my sparkly,always-happy niece just loved going out and Target always seemed to have nice and wide aisles and has always been tons of fun for us to stroll in. God bless you for sharing your story sweet Melissa. GREAT INTERVIEW ERIN !!! ox
Blue is your color. It brings out the gold in your red hair. So cute!
So many interesting bits and pieces… what echoes in my mind ins "26." That's a lot of surgery for a little girl. You must have grown at least one super power to get through the pain and recovery. The Girl with an Iron Skeleton!
Beauty Fashion Skin Care Blog - Girlie Blog Seattle says
I agree with "Sweet Posey Dreams" in that you have a wonderful attitude. I understand that being disabled is a part of your life now, but am still amazed at your positivity – that there isn't an ounce of resentment at all.
Hey, also, it's good to learn something new – that buying a new wheel chair is like buying a car. I had no idea!
Kacie Huguley says
Hi Melissa! My husband and son also have Freeman Sheldon Syndrome. I love reading your blog 🙂 Keep up the great work!
Great interview!! I love reading your blog, and have sent the URL to many friends 🙂
Karen Herndon says
Adorable photos. Reminds me so much of my sweet Leah Rose. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.
Beautiful pictures…strong young woman…great attitude. You truly are amazing. Terrific interview by Erin.
Melissa Blake says
Hi Kacie! Wow!! SO nice to meet you! I love hearing from others who have/know of freeman-sheldon syndrome! there's not many of us. Here's more info on my disability if you're interested, and say hello to your husband and son!! xoxo
Melissa Blake says
thanks so much for the sweet words, friends! glad you liked the interview!