Two examples of courage and dignity
Blog worth reading
Here’s a blog by a woman with Primarily Lateral Sclerosis (PLS).
PLS is not HSP, but is a ‘cousin’, having some things in common such as progressive weakness and spasticity of muscles and typically, tripping or difficulty walking. The writer here speaks honestly and eloquently about her disability and facing a future that will include further degeneration. There is a valuable message for us all in the dignity she displays.
4 Olympic Golds and 4 world records
David Larson of California isn’t a household name, but he is a remarkable athlete nonetheless, despite having HSP. It’s why Larson competed in the Paralympics, racing in his wheelchair against the top disabled athletes in the world. He has compiled an enviable record in four Olympics, from 1988 to 2000, including four world records and several gold medals. He was nominated for inclusion in the Paralympics category of the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.
Larson, 42, used to sell stocks and bonds and life insurance before he decided to make his own investment in doing something that was personally satisfying. Today he is an instructional assistant at Tony Tobin Elementary School in Temecula, California, working with children with varying degrees of autism.
“I modify their work so it’s tailored to their needs,” he said. “I reach each and every one of them. You know, I’m the only male teacher, and it’s great for them to see someone different from them. I try to break barriers and show positive example.”
Larson was 15 when his family left its home in Michigan for Carlsbad, California. “My parents didn’t like cold weather,” he said.
He was misdiagnosed with cerebral palsy, and used crutches until he was 5. Four surgeries to improve his flexibility resulted in “mild success,” he said. He was 30 when he was finally diagnosed with HSP.
“When I was 11, my physiotherapist suggested that I play some sports,” he said. “I loved to compete, so I took up track, and in the beginning I was running on my legs. Years later it would lead to entering the Paralympics.”
The competition has provided Larson with plenty of special moments, but two stand out.
“In 1992, I came home with four gold medals and world records. Then in 1996 my fiancée (now his wife, Kristin) saw me compete and perform at my highest level. It was phenomenal to share that with her in Atlanta.”
Larson and his wife, who is principal of Gardner Middle School in Temecula, have two sons, David, 14, and Ryan, 11. Both have the same condition as their father. “The boys use wheelchairs for longer distance and at school, but not in classrooms.”
While he retired from international competition in 2000, Larson still races in local half marathons. He’s also working toward a teaching credential in special education.
“Teaching is more rewarding than selling stocks,” he said.
SOURCE: The Press-Enterprise
BY Peter Fischetti, Correspondent