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Living with cerebral palsy


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By Kelsey Smith

Karley McMahon who has cerebral palsy, works at Career Development Center. Career Development Center provides workplace accommodations for individuals with disabilities.

Karley Rae McMahon who is now 25-years-old, was born nine weeks early. McMahon was hospitalized with several medical complications for the first two months of her life.

“It was touch and go for a while, but it all worked out in the end,” Karley’s mother Pam McMahon said.

McMahon is diagnosed with a health condition known as Cerebral Palsy. Cerebral Palsy is a neurological disorder that grows in early childhood and permanently disturbs body movement and muscle coordination. However, the condition doesn’t worsen over time. It isn’t caused by problems in the muscles or nerves, but it is caused by abnormalities in parts of the brain that control muscle movements.

The majority of children with cerebral palsy are born with it, although it may not be detected until months or years after, but usually before the child reaches age three. The minority of children have cerebral palsy as a result of brain damage in the first few months or years of life.

Throughout the interview, McMahon’s mother touched on Karley’s condition. From breathing to kidney problems, the McMahon family later found out Karley needed a surgery to close the main valve in her heart. After the surgery, given the cerebral palsy diagnosis, she progressed as normal but still had many complications to overcome in her life.

A few of McMahon’s biggest obstacles are her ability to move and care for herself on a daily basis. Small tasks such as brushing hair and getting dressed cannot be done without full assistance. McMahon lives at Family Tree, an assisted living home in Eau Claire, where staff members are there to ensure she has all the cares she needs to get through each and every day successfully.

“Karley needs a walker to ambulate through the house and a wheelchair to use throughout the community. She requires 100 percent assistance in personal cares pertaining to dressing…bathing and much more,” her caregiver Patty Thomas said.

McMahon has spent a majority of her life in physical, speech and occupational therapy programs. These programs have an all-encompassing goal for individuals to see improvement. As McMahon ages, her attendance to these programs have decreased due to not making any progressions.

“I learned that this is the best I was going to be, and I had to learn to live with it,” McMahon said.

McMahon works part time at Career Development Center in Eau Claire. This workplace accommodates individuals with disabilities and helps modify tasks so their employees are able to accomplish them.

“Karley is always happy to wheel herself into work. She never fails at making everyone around smile,” supervisor Lisa Severson of Career Development Center said.

The Career Development center offers many different jobs such as catering, custodial, packaging, printing, embroidery, shipping, upholstery, sewing and woodworking.  McMahon enjoys what she does at work. Her job is to count out eight nails and place them in a plastic bag.

“If I make a mistake while on the job, I get a little frustrated that I can’t do it because I think I should be able to do everything,” McMahon said.

McMahon has sought out other opportunities to work in many different fields but her disability did not make it possible.

“Karley not being able to work in the general public really frustrates me. Her physical limitations inhibit her from doing the tasks required of the job,” McMahon’s mother said.

Throughout the interview with Karley McMahon, I gathered that even though she faces the struggles of living with cerebral palsy on a day to day basis, she remains optimistic and has a positive outlook on life.

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Living with cerebral palsy