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Living a Full Life Despite a Birth Injury

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About one week after I started kindergarten, I quickly realized I was not like all the other children in the class. All of these children used their right hands to color; they could climb a rope in gym class and cut their own meat at lunch. On the playground children would tease me, calling out things like, “Look, she has a hook for an arm,” and, “Here comes the tree branch girl.” At first I didn’t understand why they were taunting me in such a cruel way. I remember feeling intimated by them. I would go into the girls’ restroom and cry. One day, while I was in the middle of a crying spell, I caught my reflection in the full-length mirror wearing a short-sleeve shirt; my right arm was deformed and four inches shorter than my left.

Being born with a birth injury in the sixties meant there was nothing they could do to fix it. Don’t get me wrong—I knew my arm was deformed with very limited use, but I really did not consider myself physically challenged. At home I was just one of the kids, the baby of ten children. No one ever made a big deal about my arm. I just used other parts of my body to complete any task I attempted. Apparently it was a big deal to the rest of society.

The school district tried to send me to a school for mental retardation. My father abruptly put a halt to that. He said my arm was crippled, not my mind. I soon learned it was survival of the fittest, and I was determined to become the fittest. As young as five years old, I became a fighter, survivalist, inventor, problem solver, and a realist. Whatever was ask of me, I tried harder than anyone else to accomplish, and I succeeded. As the years passed, I became just one of the normal kids. People did not seem to pay much mind to my arm. I think it bothered me more than any of my friends. I guess I was about ten years old when I first decided cooking was my passion. I would make peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, cut the crusts off, and roll them to resemble a pinwheel. I never missed a day in the kitchen with my mother. She was one of the most wonderful cooks whom I had the privilege to enjoy the fruits of her labor.

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HERWriter Guide

Hi Melinda - If you'll pardon the pun, you certainly have a full plate! I love the way you've pushed forward in life, and that you've contributed to others through your cooking and cook books. You've managed many things while dealing with the complications of RA, osteoarthritis, RSDA, fibro and degenerative disk disease. It's inspirational to learn about the ways you refuse to let anything slow you down or stop you. Thanks for writing and providing encouragement for others.
Take good care, Pat

November 25, 2009 - 6:03pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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