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news News Wednesday, May 15, 2019 Monday, May 6, 2019 8:15 PM - Monday, May 6, 2019 8:15 PM

From intensive care to student body officer: James’ story

From intensive care to student body officer: James’ story

Hello, my name is James. I’m from Salt Lake City, Utah, and like many kids, I’m just a 17-year-old high school student. But unlike many kids, I was born differently. I was diagnosed with arthrogryposis, a disability that limits the movement within my joints. I was born at only 29 weeks, and arrived at just 1 pound and 3 ounces. I was extremely weak, so I had to spend my first four months of life in intensive care fighting to see another day. And my obstacles were just starting.

In my early days I moved around by scooting on my butt. This was quite inconvenient, as it wore holes in my pants, and it wasn’t the fastest way of moving about. After that, I rolled around in a wheelchair that was controlled by moving my head in the direction I wanted to go. This crazy contraption was built by Shriners Hospital for Children — Salt Lake City and it was one of the many things they have made to aid me in my independence. All of this came with the thought that I would never be able to walk, but eventually, after the wheelchair, I made it to my feet with the help of a walker and some physical therapy. Both were provided by Shriners Hospital. And finally, by the time kindergarten started, I was able to fully walk independently due to an adaptive walking boot that was used to help with my balance.

Secondly, Shriners Hospital also helped me by laying the groundwork for my handwriting, and helping me be more self-sufficient in the classroom. They started out by making a Velcro bracelet that I could strap on to my arm, and put writing utensils inside. This made me able to write and draw, and it worked great, until I tripped on the playground at recess and fractured my dominant arm. This lead to one of my biggest obstacles – finding an alternative way to write. I tried many things, and some worked better than others, but nothing was quite as easy my mouth – which even felt more natural than writing with my left arm. This is currently how I write still, and it’s quite the shocker when people witness it for the first time. Because of my newfound talent, Shriners Hospital started right away on other tools that I could possibly control with my mouth. Examples of these include a padded stick that I could hold between my teeth when typing, and a tool that acted as an alternative to scissors that I could use with my mouth.

Last but definitely not least, Shriners Hospital has also been very instrumental towards my ability to swim. Through lots of physical therapy lessons they slowly built up strength in my legs, and one summer day in my cousins’ pool, it finally happened. I laid on my back and began to float above the water, then I began to kick with all my might. I started to accelerate across the water, and before I knew it, I had made a lap around the pool.

So as you can see, through all of these challenges, Shriners Hospitals for Children — Salt Lake City has been a gigantic help. Through things like orthopaedic surgeries, clinical appointments, orthotics, adaptive equipment and occupational therapy, they have helped me tremendously, and enabled me to be so much more functional. This year, as a high school senior, I’ll be serving my third year as a student body officer. I enjoy going to school events, going to dances, and hanging out with my friends and family on the weekends. I also enjoy swimming, paddleboarding, hiking and skiing on a ski-chair. I can do all of these things because of Shriners Hospitals for Children. I thank them very much for caring for me along my journey, and gifting me with freedom and independence. They are the reason why I’m here today. And I am forever grateful.

That is why I’d love to thank those who donate to Shriners Hospitals for Children as well. Because of donors, we can continue to help many kids, and change their lives forever. Your donations do not go unnoticed, and we appreciate your help within our community.

James with several classmatesJames as a child in hospital