Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Differently abled, not disabled

By Sam Horn, Sports Reporter

Eight thousand babies and infants are diagnosed with cerebral palsy every year, according to the cerebral palsy facts and statistics on About.com.  

This disability affects the brain and the physical attributes of humans.  In some cases, it can be extremely debilitating. Some people who have cerebral palsy can’t walk — they are confined to wheelchairs. As stated by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website , cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that affects a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture.  However, this PLU student doesn't let the disability run his life.

Miller catches a frisbee in the Fieldhouse. Standing 6 feet, 7 inches tall, Miller has always enjoyed athletics despite living with cerebral palsy. Photo by Sam Horn.

A junior at Pacific Lutheran University, Kroy Miller towers over his companions and professors.  Standing at 6 feet, 7 inches, Miller is one of the tallest students at PLU.  When you notice him walking around campus, his gait is different from other people. That is because his entire right hemisphere has cerebral palsy. 

“People who don’t know me will come up to me and ask me if they can do anything to help, but I say that I’m fine and that I can take care of myself,” Miller said. “I don’t like to be dependent.”

Normally, people who have cerebral palsy don’t partake in sports.  Miller, however, isn’t like most people with cerebral palsy. Miller grew up loving  sports, participating in soccer, ultimate frisbee and baseball as an adolescent. 

Michael Miller, Kroy Miller’s father, said, “We [my wife and I] always told Kroy that he could do anything and we supported him in his sports endeavors.”

Playing sports with cerebral palsy is not an easy task though.  Miller has to adjust based on what he can and can’t do with his right arm and leg.  In baseball, Miller throws with his left hand and catches with his left hand.  To do this, he has to grab the top of the baseball glove with his right hand in order to throw with the left hand.  Miller also has to adapt to the sport of ultimate frisbee in order to excel at it. 

“I was in band in high school and I saw people playing it [ultimate frisbee],” Miller said.  “I have always been decent at throwing the frisbee, so I finally learned the game of ultimate frisbee and how much fun it is to play.”

Miller had to overcome much adversity in order to be where he is today.  If he hadn’t received four surgeries, he might not be able to run or walk as he does today.  Miller has had three surgeries on his right leg and one on his right arm. 

He had his first leg surgery when he was in third grade. The doctors stretched his Achilles tendon and rotated his right foot so that his stride would be more balanced.

Miller had his second leg  surgery in eighth grade. Since Miller had grown so much since third grade, his Achilles tendon had to be stretched again. Miller had arm surgery in eighth grade as well. Doctors switched some tendons around in the hand so Kroy could have more flexibility in his arm. 

Miller’s most recent surgery was on on his right leg when he was in 11th grade.  Since Miller had continue to grow, his Achilles tendon was even tighter.  After repeated stretching his Achilles tendon, became hardened so doctors had to cut into the Achilles tendon so it could essentially “breathe.”

“It’s very inspirational to see Kroy be so successful in athletics,” David Loughlin, one of Miller’s good friends, said. “What’s remarkable is that not only can he play sports, but he can perform them in a way that almost makes you forget he has a disability.”