Written by Jeff Meyer on 24 Sep 2015
Having been diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a small child, Sarah-Jayne Allen has had her share of challenges. Battling fatigue, muscle soreness and seizures of the leg joints on a nightly basis, this determined youngster knows too well the obstacles her condition can frequently place in her path. Undaunted, however, she is about to embark on a new adventure, having been chosen as Northern Ireland’s entry in the junior Miss World Natural Beauty competition.
While some criticize the concept of beauty pageants as emphasizing appearance over character, particularly when it comes to young, impressionable girls, Sarah-Jayne and her parents take a different view. According to the Allens, this particular contest is specifically designed to be child-friendly and is run under strict standards and guidelines. Not only that, in order to enter the competition, each contestant must demonstrate personal dedication to fund raising. Sarah-Jayne is fulfilling this requirement by cutting 11 inches of her hair so that wigs can be made for cancer patients.
Most importantly, say the Allens, is the way in which participation in the pageant helps Sarah-Jayne understand that her disability need not define her. Sarah-Jayne herself has stated that whenever she takes the stage, she feels happy and is able, at least for a while, to put the challenges of cerebral palsy off to the side. For the entire Allen family, this is indeed a victory, whether or not Sarah-Jayne ultimately takes the crown on pageant day.
Cerebral Palsy Facts
Essentially a collection of disorders known to impact an individual’s ability to balance and move their body effectively, cerebral palsy is the most frequently diagnosed motor disability affecting children. The condition can be the result of abnormal development of the brain or damage that has been done to the brain as it develops. The subsequent loss of muscle control is perhaps the most easily discernible consequence of cerebral palsy.
Cerebral palsy patients are not uniform in their symptoms. Mild cases may involve little more than a slightly awkward gait or limp. A severe case of the condition may require a patient to use assistive devices for walking or it may preclude walking altogether. Speech difficulties and cognitive disruptions resulting from cerebral palsy are not uncommon and can prove extremely debilitating to many. Individuals with the most serious impairment may need ongoing, intensive care, which can become quite costly over time.
Common Causes of Cerebral Palsy
Though each case is unique, there are certain causes of cerebral palsy that appear to be more common than others. Some typical events leading up to a diagnosis of cerebral palsy include botched use of forceps or vacuum during labor and delivery, undue delay in calling for caesarian delivery, excessive application of compression during the birthing process and fetal hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation. Sadly, many such birth injuries are eminently preventable and the result of negligence on the part of attending physicians and other health care providers.
How Families Can Seek Justice
Not every child with cerebral palsy is able to thrive and participate in uplifting events like Sarah-Jane Allen. In fact, many young patients who receive this devastating diagnosis are in need of expensive medical care, therapeutic intervention and comprehensive assistance for the remainder of their lives. Fortunately, the law provides families the opportunity to pursue the financial resources they need to provide the best life possible for their loved one. Filing a medical negligence lawsuit is often the only way for a family affected by cerebral palsy to gain some peace of mind and help their child reach the limits of his or her potential.