Category Archives: Stories

Aussie Swimmer with CP Sets World Record

Via: The Jerusalem Post

Image via Steadfast

Australia’s Matt Levy set a world record in the swimming competitions of the 20th Maccabiah in early July, with the seven-time Paralympic medalist improving his own record in the 200-meter freestyle in the S7 class.

The 30-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, is competing in the Maccabiah for the first time.

He won a gold medal at the London 2012 Paralympics as part of Australia’s 4x100m freestyle relay team and a gold medal at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games in the 4x100m medley relay event.

Levy also claimed one silver and three bronze medals in London and is competing in Israel a year after taking a bronze in the 200m individual medley in the Rio Games, while also finishing fourth in the 50m and 100m freestyle events.

Levy, who was born at 25 weeks and has survived 46 operations, set a time of 2:16.28 minutes at the Wingate Institute, an improvement of 46 hundredths of a second to his previous best recorded in April of this year.

“It is an honor to be asked to go to these games to represent Australia,” Levy said when it was announced he would be competing in the Maccabiah.

“When I go overseas I love to learn about the different cultures, and people and learning about the culture side of Judaism in a place like Israel will be pretty amazing.”

Cerebral Palsy Patient Celebrates Independence at “Happiest Place on Earth”

Via: Michigan Medicine Headlines

cerebral-palsy-disney-worldCarey Larabee met Edward Hurvitz, M.D., in 1997 when he was 17 years old. It was to discuss a pump medical device he hoped would allow him to live and attend college independently.

“I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth,” Larabee said. “I had a lack of oxygen to my brain, and it affected my central nervous system. It made me a quadriplegic, and I experienced lots of muscle spasticity.”

After meeting with Hurvitz, professor and chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Michigan Medicine, and his colleagues Virginia Nelson, M.D., Rita Ayyangar, M.D., and Hugh Garton, M.D., they agreed Larabee was a good candidate for the intrathecal baclofen pump. He also met with Margy Fox, clinical nurse specialist in the baclofen pump program, who could answer any questions or concerns he had during treatment.

The pump, which was inserted into his lower left abdomen, includes a catheter that releases a liquid form of baclofen, a medication to treat muscle spasticity, into the spinal canal over 24 hours.

He says the hockey puck-shaped device improved his symptoms to an amazing degree.

“The pump, along with physical therapy, have really helped me to have more controlled muscle tone and have freer movements,” Larabee said. “It allowed me to be able to go to the bathroom independently, shift and transfer my weight easier and assist my family or whomever is helping me.”

Independence in College and Beyond

Born and raised in Michigan, Larabee was excited for the opportunity to go to college and decided on U-M. He graduated in 2002 with a degree in sports management and communications from the School of Kinesiology.

After an internship with the Detroit Tigers and the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living, a nonprofit that benefits people with disabilities, Larabee decided he was tired of the cold weather and ready for a challenge and change.

In 2005, he moved to Orlando, Florida, and took a job at Walt Disney World at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

“I’ve worked there for 12 years, all at the Sports Complex because I love sports. It’s been great to meet a lot of good people and friends,” he said.

Receiving Disney’s Highest Honor

Depending on the event, Larabee’s guest services role entails either event operations, athlete and coaches’ registration or assisting guests with disabilities — helping them get autographs from their favorite professional athletes. He also facilitates on-the-job training and property orientation for new employees.

“That’s probably my favorite part, helping those with disabilities during our special events, such as the Atlanta Braves spring training or the NFL Pro Bowl,” he said. “It’s one of my passions that has carried with me from my days when I volunteered at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital as a college student at U-M.”

Management noticed Larabee’s passion and skills.

In response, he was awarded the Disney Legacy Award earlier this year during a ceremony at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The prestigious honor is given every year to exemplary cast members and employees. Only 2 percent of people in the company receive the award.

“It’s quite an honor,” Larabee said. “It goes to those employees who have exceptional guest service and uphold the traditions and ideals set by Walt Disney himself. I’m very honored to receive it.”

Larabee said his job has allowed him to be a part of unique events he may not otherwise get to partake in.

“We hosted the 2016 Invictus Games last year — Prince Harry’s event for wounded veterans,” he said. “That was really cool. Probably the biggest thrill for me, though, was meeting President George W. Bush. He was so nice and gracious.”

These achievements would have been a lot more difficult without the pump.

“I’m on my fifth pump and am still able to live on my own in my own apartment with caregivers who check up on me,” Larabee said. “The pump has done a great deal for me.”

As did, he said, his Michigan Medicine care team.

“Other than my parents, I owe a great deal of my success and independence to the Michigan Medicine Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation,” Larabee said. “I’m very thankful to Drs. Hurvitz, Nelson, Ayyangar and Garton and the rest of their team.”

Family Has Adopted 88 Special Needs Kids in the Past Four Decades

By McKinley Corbley

If you ever feel like complaining about the multitude of difficulties when dealing with your family, just think about the Geraldi clan and the calamities through which they’ve bravely persevered.

Over the course of the last four decades, Michael and Camille Geraldi have become the legal guardians of 88 special needs children and adults.

Ever since the couple first met in 1973 at the Miami Children’s Hospital, they knew that they were destined to care for kids. As Camille worked as a nurse, and Michael toiled as a pediatrician, they dedicated their careers to healing and watching over the young patients – some of whom had special needs and had been abandoned by their parents. Michael was renown for offering his services to low-income families free of charge, while Camille often spent late nights at the hospital reading to disabled children.

After they got married two years later, the lovebirds started adopting the disabled orphans from the hospital. The children were diagnosed with everything from autism to cerebral palsy, facial deformities to Down syndrome – whatever the difficulty, the Geraldis loved them all.

“I love these kids,” Camille told Good News Network. “Though it can be challenging, draining, exhausting work, when you have your faith you just keep going.”

By the time they had adopted 18 children – and gave birth to three of their own – they started the Possible Dream Foundation: a nonprofit to help finance their children’s futures, rehabilitation, education, work training, and treatment.

While Michael’s salaried income paid for most of their expenses, the family still needed assistance as their brood expanded in the 90s to include 31 youngsters. Their circumstances seemed even more dire after their Miami, Florida home was destroyed by Hurricane Andrew.

The Geraldis then moved to a farm in North Carolina where many of the children grew up to graduate from high school and became certified dog trainers.

The family suffered another disaster in 2011, however, when their farm was struck my lightning, causing a house fire that burned everything to the ground. But good fortune stepped in and they were offered a home in Georgia, which they made handicapped-accessible using the insurance money from their previous home.

Camille is now 68 years old – and even though she lost Michael to an aggressive cancer last year, she still has a mighty spirit for taking care of the children alongside a large team of volunteers.

How does she stay so motivated? Camille gives credit to divine inspiration.

“I think sometimes you’re just cut out to do it or you’re not” she says. “I do know that I’m doing God’s work—he plans the day and I just carry it out. He motivates me along the way.”

“I usually wear a mustard seed pinned to my shirt, and when I’m feeling drained and need a push, I touch it and he gives me the the energy and determination I need to make it through the hard times and the adversity.”

Even more striking than the years of intensive parenting and hospice care, is the fact that Camille had never taken time for a vacation until very recently.

She and Mike had planned to go on a cruise for their 40th wedding anniversary, taking their “first vacation ever,” but because of his diagnosis they had to cancel. This year she finally was able to relax on a seven-day trip.

Despite all the hardships, Camille continues to care for the Geraldi family with compassion, love, and unwavering selflessness.


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