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Personal Stories

The Godmother - Eleanora N. Gambino

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The following is an excerpt from The Godmother's Story - Part One

Eleanora Gambino ~The Godmother~
I was named Eleanora after my paternal grandmother. I was a premature baby. My mother had several false labors before my birth. I was her second child. I have a brother, Salvatore, who is eighteen months older than I. I have two younger sisters, Paula and Nina. Of four children I am the only disabled child.

In reference to my birth history, I was told that my mother contracted a virus during her pregnancy with me. Her labor was difficult and lasted many hours. The umbilical cord was diseased and broken. I wasn't being nourished. During my birth, I was not moving myself down the birth canal. I suffered anoxia and was blue. My birth weight was four lbs. nine oz. Because of my birth experience, I was born with Ataxic Cerebral Palsy. This was not discovered until my toddler years. I did not walk until I was almost, three years old.

My parents were searching for answers for years. When I began to walk, I had a toe-in scissors gait. This gait stayed with me for life. This gait helps me to maintain balance. Since the lesions are in the cerebellum that controls balance, my brain sends a message to my legs to turn in. My brain believes that the message is correct. Therefore, I toe in, in order to prevent falling down. Over time, my hips became inverted, & with age new changes have occurred. My memories include many trips to New York specialists in search of the cause of my problems walking.

There is one thing that I must tell you. Cerebral Palsy is an injury . It is not a disease. Many people have a misconception about that. Cerebral Palsy is an injury to the brain. It usually occurs due to birth trauma. The areas of the brain effected with the lesion are what causes the variety of symptoms.There are three main types of Cerebral Palsy. They are Spastic, Athetoid and Ataxic.

The highest percentage of Cerebral Palsy is the Spastic type. The second highest percentage of Cerebral Palsy is the Athetoid type. This type of Cerebral Palsy is marked by uncontrollable movements of the body. The lesions are in the basal ganglia of the brain. The third highest percentage of Cerebral Palsy is the Ataxic type. Lesions are found in the cerebellum. The cerebellum controls balance. The Ataxic C.P. has great difficulty holding his or her balance. This is the main type that I have.

Unlike Multiple Sclerosis & Muscular Dystrophy, which are diseases, Cerebral Palsy is not supposed to become worse. In Cerebral Palsy, the lesions are like scar tissue in the brain. They are not degenerative. I have questioned this, because I cannot walk as I once did. It could be that I have worn out my muscles and bones after all the years of abusing them with my gait. My brain tissue remains unchanged, whereas my physical condition has deteriorated. Within the medical profession, there is much controversy about deterioration happening to adults with Cerebral Palsy. I emphasize, though, that Cerebral Palsy is not a disease!

As a little girl, I played with my brother, Salvatore, the most. Most of the neighborhood children wouldn't play with me. They thought that they would "catch" what I had. My brother was my "hero." He protected me. The children were cruel. They said mean things to me. My companion was my child sized "walking" doll. Her eyes were crossed. I believed that she had something wrong with her like me. In elementary school, children continued to make fun of me. Almost every day, someone would sneak up behind me on the playground, and knock me down. If someone didn't knock me down; I would trip over my own two feet.

I remember with affection a classmate in second grade, who protected me from the onslaught of the uncaring children that would knock me down. He was tall, and large for his age. No one would bother me when he was around. He was my bodyguard. There came a time in that school year, when he was absent for over a week. I was devastated. I asked my teacher why he was absent. She took me aside, and told me that he wasn't returning to class. The teachers had learned that he was mentally retarded, and he was sent to a special school. I felt very sad. I missed him very much.

This experience contributed to my future, as I became a Special Education Teacher. To this day, I wonder whatever became of my bodyguard. I was a very good student, and earned excellent grades. I did make friends in school. In time, my friends taught me how to dance the latest dances, and jump rope. This group of friends, and I remain close to this day.

When I was about seven years old, I started a regimen of Physical and Occupational therapy at the Southern New England Rehabilitation Center in Stamford, CT. I went for my therapies once or twice a week until I was about fourteen years old. In Occupational Therapy, I made gifts for my family. These activities were fun. I made belts, and ashtrays. I, also, made a hand puppet for myself. I spent a lot of time on the manual typewriter. It was then that I began to write poetry. I've continued to write poetry throughout my life, and I've had several published over the years.

continued in ~The Godmother's Website~

Eleanora Gambimo - ~The Godmother~ © 1998.



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