As a little boy, I never thought that a neurological illness would affect my entire life. However, I am currently having a difficult time to find ways to cope with something I must deal with for the rest of my life. I cannot run or jump like other people. People often look at me strangely and my interaction with others never feels natural.
I have Cerebral Palsy, is a group of disorders involving the brain and nervous system affecting movement, learning, hearing, sight, and cognition.
My parents did everything they could to help me. They believed in the power of acupuncture and took me to specialists all the time. Doctors stuck needles in my head and the rest of my body. They recommended Chinese herbs and advised my mom to buy ginger, chicken feet, and many other strange ingredients to make herbal soups to help my symptoms. At first, I was repelled by them, but as time went on, I began to enjoy these prescribed remedies.
I am Anthony Nguyen, here is my story:
When I was born, I think the doctor said I weighed a little less than other newborns. Growing up, I had a hard time walking long distances so I got a wheelchair between the ages of 1 - 7. Over time, I wore leg braces and used a walker to help me keep my balance.
With leg braces, I struggled to put on my shoes--my dad had to help me with my shoes and braces every morning. He would then drive me to my uncle’s house, where I waited for the bus to pick me up to take me to and from school every day until I reached high school. Every day after school, my grandma took care of me until my mom got off work.
Prior to my last year of high school, I was in placed in special education. I struggled to develop good study habits--I just didn’t know how. When I transferred to San Jose State University from De Anza College, these habits improved. At De Anza, I often went home late because I had to stay after classes and was involved in many extracurricular activities. I was president of the Anime Club and it took up a lot of my time. At San Jose State, devoting to my schoolwork became a priority for me. During this time, I reached out to the Disability Resource Center. The center helped me get a note taker, speech therapy, and testing accommodations. Their support helped me graduate from San Jose State. I received help twice a week during classes as well as during study times.
Many of the Vietnamese people I meet seem to accept my illness. They asked my parents, “Is your son is okay?” My parents have to explain my disabilities. Some understood right away, while the other half needed time to let the information sink in. Once it did, they understood my mental health is different compared to other people's mental disorders. Many of them recommended that I seek 'special' doctors who can make me better.
One time, my mom took me to a man from Vietnam. He was known for curing illnesses such as deafness, speech impediments, and much more. My mom woke me up at 4 in the morning and we drove to Morgan Hill. Once we arrived, I saw people of many different cultures, backgrounds, and genders who were already in line to wait to see this doctor. In this moment, I thought, everybody--no matter who they are or what they look like--needed help. We all had flaws. My mom and I waited in line for a couple of hours. After being treated by the doctor, he instructed me to “Speak up and count to 10!” in front of my mom and everyone else in the room. I obeyed and counted. My mom confirmed my speech was clearer and better than before.
I used to hate having Cerebral Palsy, but as I've grown, I learned to accept who I am. I've gained determination throughout college and university because I knew I had to do it for myself. I know I still need to practice my speech and have to take more speech lessons. I have to keep on exercising and continue to believe in myself so I can succeed in life.
I would like to help educate more people about Cerebral Palsy. Through my struggles, I've gained the strength to keep my life on track and have always found a way to the next step.
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A San Jose Native and a recent graduate from University of San Jose in Journalism. Though Anthony doesn’t speak Vietnamese, he wants to learn more about the Vietnamese culture and poetry. He strongly believes contributing to Chopsticks Alley will help him learn more about his Vietnamese roots.