The title, Respite Reader, has two meanings for me. First, if you really want to do something, you can. Second, if there is wheel (wheelchair), I can get around. One day in 1993 in Ocala, Fla., my mom, Lucynthia Brockington, found out she was 14 weeks pregnant with me. Shortly after she went for a prenatal visit, doctors told her that I would have Down syndrome, that I was going to have severe retardation and that everything that could go wrong would.
My mom told them that if I didn’t know anything else, I would know that I was loved by the look in her eyes and that she would accept me the just the way God gave me to her.
See, that’s some of the will I’m talking about, because of her will to believe in me. At another visit, they saw that I wasn’t getting enough oxygen or blood from my mom. They immediately admitted her to the hospital.
A few weeks later, I was born very early and weighed only one pound, seven ounces. I was so small that I wore baby doll clothes. My dad thought I would be born with Down syndrome because that’s what the doctors told my mom.
I was not born with Down syndrome. I was born with cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a disease that affects muscle tone, movement and motor skills. Cerebral palsy is usually caused by brain damage that occurs during a child’s early stages of life. I had to start taking physical therapy because of the cerebral palsy. Eventually we moved to New Jersey. The first school I attended was Head Start. Back then I was quiet at school until I started middle school and met some of my best friends. Those were some of the best years in school. I started my after-school program around that same time.
It’s called The Arc Mercer.
I knew a lot of people from school there. I remember when I first came there the director introduced me, and all the kids were very excited. One of the new people I met there was Tammi Weigger. She has become one of my best friends. She is the daughter of George and Gayle Weigger. Tammi is 31. She has cerebral palsy just like me. She has had multiple surgeries because of it, but Tammi says growing up was still fun because of her family and friends. We started a newsletter together called the Respite Reader magazine.
Either way. I love my life.
Editor’s note: We met the author of Respite Reader, Marlene Brockington, at The Arc National Convention. She and Tammi Weigger, with support from The Arc Mercer in Trenton, N.J., including recreation manager John Morton, launched the Respite Reader in 2011.