High School Student Overcomes Cerebral Palsy to Become Cheerleader

By Laura Oberle

During a cheer practice this past fall, cheerleader McKeil Patterson had the Beaufort, S.C., High School squad called together.

She had something to tell them.

The team was unfocused and disorganized – each girl distracted by school or friends or fatigue. They were practicing their lifts – moves called stunting. A single mistake could result in serious injury.

“It was getting loud, and you’re supposed to keep quiet when you’re stunting for safety reasons,” the team’s coach, Kathy Ingram, said.

Patterson joined the squad in August, fulfilling her life-long dream of being a cheerleader. The 16-year-old was born with cerebral palsy and is bound to a power-wheelchair. To become a cheerleader, she had to spend hours in therapy each week just to be able to lift her hands above her head.

She saw her teammates slacking off and not giving it their all. She called over Jaylyn Washington, a senior captain, and said, “There are a lot of people falling. They’re not being serious. Tell them to get their heads in the game and give 100 percent.”

Coach Ingram had already ordered some of the girls to do push-ups as punishment. She walked over to Patterson and said, “You’ve never had to see Coach get cross, but you’re about to see me in action.”

“That’s when (Patterson) said she’d like to talk to them,” Ingram said.

So the coach called the team together, and Patterson told them they had to get serious. They needed to be careful. They had to try harder.

Then Patterson told them something else.

“I was in bad foster homes, and I was abused for a very long time, three years,” she said. “I had two broken hips, sores all over my body, I only weighed 88 pounds, and I was just hanging on for dear life.”

“I didn’t give up.”

“When I go to therapy I give 100 percent. It might be hard, but I give 100 percent every time. It might hurt, but I give 100 percent.

“Today, you could never tell I was 88 pounds.”

The speech put things into perspective and moved junior Kari Workman to tears.

“McKeil represents everything good about cheerleading,” she said. “Everything that cheerleading was made for, what it’s supposed to be, that’s McKeil.”
 

An Inspiring Patient

The first time Lisa Johnson, an occupational therapist at Beaufort Memorial Hospital, worked with Patterson, she was covering for another therapist.

“After that, I wanted to get her on my schedule,” Johnson said. “She is the most fun, and the most inspiring patient.”

Patterson shared with Johnson and Kristen Ferguson, her physical therapist, her dream of being a cheerleader. She had lived her whole life being told what she would never be able to do, but she knew better.

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Wooster Raising Money to Help Kandel Family with Daughter’s Disabilities

By Linda Hall

The Wooster community is very quickly becoming acquainted with the Kandel family and is surrounding its members with encouragement and acts of kindness.

Kate Kandel, the new principal at Kean Elementary School, is certain Wooster will be just as supportive as has been their hometown of Ashland of her, her husband, Corey, and their four children, including daughter Kylie, who was born with a chromosomal abnormality, resulting in multiple health issues and special needs, including epilepsy, cerebral palsy, physical disabilities and cognitive delays, and diagnosed in 2012, rheumatoid arthritis.

A community fundraiser for Kylie, turning 11 years old Jan. 21, is being sponsored by the Bob Evans Restaurant in Ashland and its two locations in Wooster. Customers at any of the three locations from Monday-Saturday can mention Kylie or present a flier, available at the restaurant, in order for 15 percent of their bill to be donated to the family.

The fundraiser applies to eating at the restaurant or to carry-out food, from opening until closing.

It will help pay for an indoor therapy pool to be used for Kylie’s rheumatoid arthritis, sparing her at least for now from chemotherapy, which could pose extra danger for her because of her other serious medical issues.

Specialists treating Kylie have never encountered her combination of health conditions, Corey Kandel said in a video made by the couple’s church, Trinity Lutheran in Ashland. “Nothing is standard (treatment) for her.”

Handicap-accessible equipment is extremely expensive, Kate Kandel pointed out.

The Kandels had no hint of what lay ahead when Kylie was born two months early. As far as they knew, they were going to have a healthy baby girl. Instead, they learned she had an extremely rare chromosomal abnormality — “just a fluke — (with) one in a bazillion (odds),” her mother said.

“(Doctors) gave her a life expectancy of 5,” Kate Kandel said.

As she approaches her 11th birthday, Kylie has begun to lose mobility, gets tired easily but can’t sleep through the night, experiences chronic pain and needs assistance with daily activities, her mother said. But despite her health and cognitive issues, there is “so much positive,” Kate Kandel said.

“She loves going to the beach; she loves the water,” her mother said. “She is a fighter; she has defied all odds. She is a trooper.

“She has a huge heart (and) she loves people,” Kate Kandel said, and in return, is loved by others.

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Personal Essay: “Love is”: Special Needs Edition

By Tammy Hodson

Editor’s note: This is a personal essay by Tammy Hodson of Highland, who is the mother of Parker, 8, who was born with a raft of health problems including Down syndrome and serious heart, lung and developmental issues.

I recently read that in stressful situations, love has the power to heal. It heals those who receive it as well as those who give it.

In the special needs community, I watch as parents come together time and again to offer support, prayers and love to those they’ve never ever met. Right now, a sweet friend of mine is helping her little girl kick cancer’s butt. Another friend recently lost her fight to keep her child alive. I find myself, along with countless others, keeping these families in my prayers several times a day while sending healing, positive vibes to the hearts of these parents.

We are truly all in this together.

For those within the special needs community, love might look a little different than in other communities. For a parent of a medically fragile child with special needs, love is having no idea which doctors to trust, and then having a friend hook you up with the ones she loves the most for her child, who also turn out to the ones who are willing to go above and beyond to keep your child alive as well.

Love is having your insurance policy suddenly decide to no longer cover your child’s feeding supplies based on the fact that they feel (erroneously) he has the ability to take enough by mouth. In a bit of a panic, you turn to your community of parents of kids with special needs and receive offers of food, tubing, bags, and the knowledge that you are truly not alone.

Love is a husband who sleeps on the floor of our son’s safe room each night when we don’t have a nurse. He wants to be there in case Parker’s oxygen supply gets low with no one close enough to hear the alarms go off.

Love is your LDS ward hosting a special fast and prayer as your child goes into an important surgery.

Love is siblings who willingly give up college funds, mission funds and work their way through college instead so that the money once saved for them can go to the one we call our Brave Hero to help meet his needs.

Love is having someone donate an adaptive bike so Parker can experience something beyond the 50 feet of tubing he will forever be tethered to.

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