If you know anything about cerebral palsy, you know that the majority of people affected are born prematurely. I was not one of those babies. I was born two weeks late, weighing approximately as much as a small 1-year-old. I was in the NICU of two different hospitals before I went home after two months. After watching friends’ babies developing and reaching certain milestones, my parents realized that something was wrong, and I was diagnosed with CP when I was two. I’m now 18, so I’ve been living with this for a while and have become a self-proclaimed unofficial expert (and Queen) of cerebral palsy. Because March is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month, I thought I would drop some of my knowledge and share seven facts about CP to, well, raise awareness.
1.Cerebral Palsy isn’t a disease, it’s a brain injury.
CP is caused by a brain injury sustained right before, during, or shortly after birth. When you have CP, your brain has a hard time telling your muscles what to do. What ends up happening is you know how to do something and your brain understands, but your body doesn’t listen. When this happens, it’s mildly irritating.
2. Since it is a brain injury, there is no way for it to be contagious.
I don’t know how much clearer I can make this. When someone sustains a brain injury, it is literally impossible for that person to give other people brain injuries just by being too close to others. Similar to how a stroke victim can’t give another person a srtoke, someone with CP can’t give someone else CP.
3. There is more than one kind of Cerebral Palsy.
In my case, mine affects the left side of my body, which is why I do everything with my right side. What’s most important to realize here is not everyone with cerebral palsy is the same. No two cases are the same. This is important for the public to know for obvious reasons, but it is also important for parents of newly diagnosed kids to know because the worst case scenarios that you read online might not apply to your child’s case.
4. There is no cure. And that’s okay.
I completely understand people’s need to believe there is a cure out there somewhere. It would be great if there was, but I just don’t see that ever happening. You can’t really “cure” a brain injury. That’s not to say there aren’t options to improve the quality of life. Physical and occupational therapy are helpful for many people, including me. There is also Botox, surgery, and countless other routes to take. Just because there isn’t a cure doesn’t mean steps can’t be taken to improve one’s ability.