The doctors didn’t give J.R. much of a chance to live after he had a stroke when he was a baby. They had overlooked a major heart problem at birth that caused the stroke. The end result of the stroke was that it left J.R., if he lived, with Cerebral Palsy for the rest of his life.
The months after the stroke were hard on J.R. In and out of the hospital what seemed to be every two weeks. It wasn’t until he had turned three that he was strong enough for surgery on his heart. Even that was risky. An operation like that on a child was still in the experimental stage. No one was really sure how it would turn out, or what kind of affects it would have.
Two years after the surgery J.R. started school. It was a preschool for handicapped children. They help him with his therapy and his speech and his motor skills. J.R. was determined to get out of the wheelchair he was in and walk.
The year went on and J.R. was progressing nicely. He had learned to walk with crutches. An accomplishment he was very proud of. He didn’t use his wheelchair for much of anything. He was always showing off how well he walked to anyone he could.
“Mom,” J.R. said, with determination in his eyes. “Can I go to a regular school next year?”
“I don’t know J.R. We’ll have to see what the doctors say about it.”
“Aw mom, do we have to?” J.R. asked, disappointment in his face.
J.R. didn’t like asking the doctors to see what he could and could not do. Even at that young age he was asserting his independence.
“I’m afraid we have to,” she said, as she knelt down to look him in the eyes. “The doctor said any major changes we would have to see what they say. They just want to make sure your heart can take it.” She wrapped her arms around him.
J.R. started to cry. Even though J.R. knew she was right, he still felt that it should be his decision and his alone. He wanted to be a regular kid, and going to a regular school was part of that.
The first day of school arrived and J.R. was so excited about going to a new school. A regular school. He almost gave up hope because it took over a year to convince the doctors and the school district to let him in.
He proudly walked into classroom with his head held high.
“Class,” the teacher announces. “This is J.R.”
The other kids looked at J.R. with curious eyes. A few of the kids shouted, what are those for?
“They are called crutches,” the teacher said. “They help him walk. J.R.” she looked at him. “Would you like to say anything to the class?”
J.R. stood there for a moment looking at the class. Then announced, “I’m a regular kid!”