Walking In Faith
by Maggie Delaney
I was born in Northern Kentucky with a visual impairment and injured left arm. I spent several days in the hospital's intensive care nursery, and my parents learned two months later that I had had seizures while there. Medical professionals were uncertain whether or not I would survive. They discussed the amputation of my left arm, but my parents did not want to take this drastic step. Their faith remained strong, and they continued to believe that God works in miraculous ways.
Specialized physicians in Cincinnati and Louisville began caring for me. I attended occupational and physical therapy, which included swimming in an attempt to further develop and strengthen my muscles. Friends, neighbors, and church members prayed and lent support, trying to ease the pain of my disability and uplift my parents' spirits.
When I was two, we moved to Memphis, Tennessee where my father became an associate pastor of a 1,600 member church. An ophthalmologist performed my first of two eye surgeries there, attempting to improve what vision I had. At age four, I returned to Louisville for the first of nine surgeries on my left arm. My parents continued to follow the scripture and encouraged me to develop the strength and understanding to become a Christian.
When I entered school, educators questioned my potential for success, because the brain damage I suffered at birth made it difficult, and sometimes, impossible for me to perceive and process graphic information. A resourceful teacher helped me learn to read and write by tracing sand cardboard letters repeatedly.
At age seven, we moved to St. Louis, Missouri. Finding a school district with a reputable special education program became a concern for my family. Yet, with the encouragement of teachers and use flash cards and workbooks, I was soon included in a traditional classroom for mathematics, spelling, and reading; upon entering third grade, I spent most of the day in an ordinary classroom, leaving for support services for only an hour. I began witnessing the Lord working through me, and in fifth grade, I was baptized.
In fifth grade, I became interested in joining the school band, but I needed to investigate which instruments I could play with only one arm and hand. Our church organist recommended the trumpet, and my mother found a private instructor who gave me special help with reading musical notation. I soon became one of the top trumpet players and won contests.
During junior high, I participated on a community softball team. I played right field, but was not the best at catching fly balls. I could hit balls pitched to me, but often not very far throughout my first two seasons. The final year I played, my friend's father sought a new approach. Positioning myself as if I was left-handed provided more strength, allowing me to hit the ball harder and farther. My enthusiasm, dedication, positive attitude, and significant improvement placed me on the all-star team that year.
My great aunt Becky worked with me, developing strategies and devising methods for watching television as a source of entertainment. Patterns of repetition and routine explanations eventually made it possible for me to watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy.
Throughout my junior high and high school years I often felt alone and different. I feared classmates would snicker anytime I could not see something or when I had to ask someone to tie my shoes. I was called names, threatened, shoved aside in hallways, and pushed down on the sidewalk. However, with Gods reassurance, I learned to overlook how I was perceived and treated by those who appeared insecure of themselves. I became accepting of such people, and realized that they may have not come from a loving home, and therefore, needed me to include them in prayer.
I was placed in advanced programs in high school and accomplished numerous achievements. Although I continued having difficulty identifying pictures used in French class as well as science concepts through laboratory experiments, I had no problem succeeding in areas where I was gifted like speech, writing, and literature. I learned to solve problems creatively and graduated as a scholarship recipient.
The summer before entering college, I worked with an occupational therapist, because I wanted to live on campus, and my parents became overwhelmed thinking about how I would succeed. With adaptive devices introduced to me by my therapist such as shoe buttons and an on-screen computer keyboard program, I was well on my way to becoming independent. I changed my hairstyle, and with the assistance of three campus residents, I mastered the skill of putting in and taking out contact lenses two months into my first semester.
Although I encountered some college courses that were difficult, I never gave up faith. I also had a few professors who were not familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act and who viewed having me as a student in their classroom as a burden. However, I knew that being angry with them would not help the situation. Instead, I followed Christ's teaching of forgiveness. On the whole, productive study habits, use of Disability Services, small classes, and guidance from friends and family allowed college to be a time for growth, discovery, independence, sharing, and living for me.
High points included making the Dean's List, participating in the Student Government Association, being elected President of a Sorority, and becoming a published writer. As I walked across the stage to receive my diploma, I couldn't help remembering the dreary picture painted by the professionals who thought I might never read and write successfully.
Currently, I volunteer at a Children's Law Center and hope to enter law school in the fall of 2004. I write a bi-weekly column for my church newsletter on behalf of our Inclusion Ministry, serve as a Sunday school teacher, and coordinate and publicize activities for the ministry. I tutored students and worked for a non-profit social service agency prior to graduation, and continue to write articles and poetry for and about individuals with disabilities and the inclusion process.
I have found a scripture passage to serve as my motto: "Being strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid, for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you." (Deuteronomy 31: 6)