Friday, March 13, 2015

Push hard

A few weeks ago I found a message in my inbox that started with :"We are composing a section of Adults with CP from various fields to show parents that a CP diagnosis doesn't limit  possibilities for their child. ". It was for some sort of American Cerebral Palsy toolkit and I was asked to share a few paragraphs about myself. The goal was to share a wide spectrum of individuals with the conditions that often are extremely successful in demanding, high end careers. If there's anything I can do besides law it's talking about myself so I agreed. I was asked to keep an upbeat, inspirational tone. Since it doesn't seem my laptop can recover from its Windows 8.1 update last night that causes it to freeze two minutes after the bootr anytime soon, I'll share the write up here. The message I wanted to get across was "get involved" as a parent and "push hard":

 When I was born, I was so tiny and fragile, the doctors told my parents to prepare for the worst. The first 24 hours were supposed to be telling- then 48, then 72. My parents put together my baptism in a hurry, an unusual feat in then communist Poland. 35 years later, I'm still here. And I wish I could tell my mom and dad from back then that their years of hard work and dedication paid off. They'd be thrilled to see my life today and I know it would have given them some comfort. Who would have guessed, that having been born behind the iron curtain, I'll end up moving to America to build up on my existing legal career to get licensed in two states and start up a Florida non profit to help people with disabilities. My parents never quit on me, but always worried. Mostly about what life will be like for me and can they make it and make me better. It started when the doctors first ignored the signs from what they felt like was a panicked mother. I was slowly missing the milestones of child development, leading to the diagnosis of CP at the age of one. My mom then quit her job and for the next fourteen years between the hospitals and the rehabilitation centers exercised me for many hours every day. Thanks  to her persistence, I was spared "special schooling" and "individual teaching program". She wanted me up there, in class with other, fully functioning kids and knew I'd excel. My parents carried me to school every day to offer me the regular, most "normal" school experience, up the stairs as most Polish facilities at the time didn't have elevators and people with disabilities were not welcome at all. And I proved to be better than most of my classmates. From a regular elementary school to a more competitive math-physics profiled high school class, I proved to be a really good student. At the same time, we tried every CP rehabilitation  method my mom could get her hands on. From Bobbath to Peto- I've spent four years in Hungary and credit most of my ability and  independence to Conductive Education. Once Summer, my mother has flown to Philadelphia to get herself educated and certified in the Doman principle. Our living room looked like a gym- with an exercise mattress  and a stationary bike, with grab bars in the living room. My parents pushed me hard and never gave up on me. That drive and motivation became a part of who and how I am as well. In 98 I was accepted to Warsaw University Law. Managed to maintain my scholarship through most of it and graduated summa cum laude. But the outside world of the now capitalist Poland wasn't much more welcoming and I wanted to try and see if I can live differently. I came to America for one year and one program. Two programs and 10 years later I'm a practicing attorney. "Never, never quit"- my life's philosophy became the title of my 2013 book published in London, supporting  a local CP charity. I now practice law in Florida and DC and run a local charity called Florida Disability Access and Awareness Foundation, that pushes for more accessibility. Also in 2013, I was asked to deliver keynotes at a CE World Congress in Munich. I live in Gainesville where I was named one of the city's 18 most interesting people in 2010

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