Home Away From House
This is an excerpt of the book called The Emotional Struggle”. by Brandon Ryan. Copyright material through Author House publishing. 2007-2008
I, Brandon Lee Ryan, have been through many of life’s hardest struggles. Born with Cerebral Palsy, the uphill battle started early. September 18, 1984, was the day my mother gave birth to her first and only boy. I breathed my first free breath in a hospital at Wurtsmith Air Force Base, Michigan. I was transferred soon after to Saginaw General Hospital. The initial problem that Dr. Chai-Yakarn Soontharotoke encountered was as follows:
“Brandon is three and one half months old according to gestational age. He was born thirty-one weeks gestation, suffering from severe respiratory distress with respiratory failure that required mechanical respiratory support. There was evidence of prenatal hypoxia. During the neonatal course, he was found to have evidence of intraventricular hemorrhage with mild-to-moderate dilatation of the ventricle.”
You don’t need to know Latin or even human anatomy to interpret that my health was in question; the words severe, distress, and failure should at least serve as situation clues.
Let me translate. “Intraventricular” means within the ventricles. “Hemorrhage” means excessive bleeding. Intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH) is bleeding inside or around the ventricles, the spaces in the brain containing cerebral (relating to the brain) spinal fluid. IVH is most common in premature babies, especially those with very low birth weight, babies weighing less than three pounds, four ounces. Human pregnancy can be divided into three trimesters, three-month spans. The third trimester begins at about twenty-eight weeks.
The twenty-third week is the first week when a preterm fetus is considered viable. Before this age, major developments that would allow the fetus to survive outside the womb haven’t yet occurred. Some children, born before that week, have survived, but only with significant medical assistance. We, humans, are normally born at a “gestational” age of about nine months (Thirty-seven to forty-two weeks).
Childbirth occurring before thirty-seven weeks of gestation is considered preterm. Birth after twenty-five weeks is usually considered “viable.” Preterm and low-birth-weight babies are the second highest group of infants who die (about 17%).
It is estimated that two million babies worldwide die annually within 24 hours of birth. (For further study, see: THE FUTURE OF CHILDREN. U.S. Healthcare For Children. Analysis. Copyright by Princeton University and The Brookings Institution, all rights reserved. ).
So after turning technical jargon into laymen’s terms, we can conclude that I was born prematurely. And one of the effects was excessive internal bleeding. Not fun stuff. Kimberly Ryan, my mother, was twenty-seven when I was born. She had previously given birth to my sister Jessica. Jessica is now twenty-seven years old and married to her husband Nic.
My mother vowed to be a stay-at-home mom and proceeded to offer daycare to other children as well. My dad served twenty-one years in the United States Air Force and taught Martial Arts in his spare time. His spare time became the foundation for my life, as I’ll explain further in the story.
The effects of Cerebral Palsy drastically limited my range of motion. Growing up my disability made my body very stiff, which resulted in an all-out war for whoever was dressing me. The stiffness often made it hard for them to slide my right arm through any form of T-shirt.
To counteract my spastic tendencies, I was medicated with Valium. The doctors’ main purpose with the prescription was to relax my body so that everyday activities such as getting dressed would not be as difficult.
Going through kindergarten and grade school was awkward. Not only did I have to deal with other kids my age, as every child does, but there weren’t many kids that looked like me externally. There were probably two other kids around that had various physical ailments worse than mine.
It was easy to be around others who were physically challenged. When we occupied the same space, in those moments, we were on the same level. Our frequencies traveled with equal wavelengths and seemed to meet in the middle.
I remember being bound to a wheelchair during school hours for part of my childhood. At the start of each school day, we had a regular morning routine. The mornings that everyone loved were, of course, the regular ones. I’d get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, and go sit in front of the TV. Most days it was The Power Rangers and I. The bus came around 7:45 AM.
I can’t quite remember my elementary school bus driver’s name, perhaps Debbie. Either way, she would lower down a really nifty lift that always caught my attention as it unfolded. She would press a switch and the lift would slowly lower. As it hit the ground, it made a crunchy, skin-crawling sound. The bus was number twelve. This bus also shaped the memories of my childhood.
The wheelchair was larger than I was, perhaps even five times my size. I couldn’t see over it, because the back piece towered over my head. In order for me to see over it, I had to pull myself up.
I couldn’t reach the wheels because they were small and too far from my elevated hands. Living in and out of this wheelchair was a blessing and a curse all rolled into one: a blessing because when the time came for everyone to be seated at their desks, I already had mine, and a curse because when recess came, every kid in the class pelted out to the playground while I remained strapped to my chair, watching my classmates enjoy the freedom of running like chickens with their heads cut off. They played soccer, climbed monkey bars, and slid down the slides at full speed. I sat.
Do I seem bitter or even a bit jealous? Indeed I was, not only of their activities but also their attire. While kids were wearing normal shoes and socks, I was wearing Ankle-Foot Orthoses (AFO’s). Each AFO covered my ankle and calf, positioning my foot forward.
While they might seem beneficial to the common eye, they weren’t entirely. They often left welts on my feet. The AFO’s were made in such a way that two metal screws were positioned next to my ankle.
I remember sitting in class sometimes, just begging the teacher or my assistant to take my braces off for maybe five minutes. But because my doctor said so, I had to wear them, even if that meant intense discomfort.
When school was over, the bus driver delivered to my parents. And the first thing, my mom or dad would lift me out of that larger-than-life wheelchair and place me onto the nice comfortable couch in our living room. Then, it was off with my braces, which felt like heaven on foot, as the soothing air wisped over my sweaty hurting feet.