Written by Jeff Meyer on 20 Jan 2016
Luke Kuechly is a defensive standout for the Carolina Panthers, in arguably the most physically demanding sports league in the world. A ninth-round draft pick, Kuechly won the 2012 Defensive Rookie of the Year Award, and the following year, he became the youngest recipient ever of the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award. Kuechly has appeared with his team in the NFL playoffs in consecutive seasons, 2013 and 2014. And yet, with such on-field successes, the young twenty-four (24) year old NFL star is also community minded. In fact, off the field, Kuechly raises awareness of critical societal problems and challenges oftentimes forgotten by the everyday individual. This is especially so in the case of raising awareness for cerebral palsy patients, in which he recently fulfilled a twenty-one-year-old woman’s birthday wish by not only meeting with her but take her out for dancing and to be with her friends.
This special date was coordinated through the young lady’s parents and an organization called Dream On 3. And the date was truly a dream come true for Jessica Hayes, 21, who in addition to cerebral palsy has autism, cortical blindness (partial loss of vision as the result of damage to the brain’s occipital cortex), and hydrocephalus (abnormal accumulation of fluid in the brain). Such complications, to the ordinary individual, would appear to exclude the young girl from such traditional activities. But, Jessica has struggled with these ailments all of her life, and like most people with cerebral palsy, she is wheelchair-bound. But with an attitude of only wanting to meet her favorite athlete and go to her dance, these standard issues rarely phase someone as adept as Jessica at meeting adversity.
Medical Facts on Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is an incurable pathology in which the infant patient’s brain is presumed to sustain some period of hypoxia or anoxia, in which the child sustains permanent brain damage, oftentimes presents as extreme physical disabilities in many patients. As of 2015, and thanks to significant strides in the management of cerebral palsy, nearly 800,000 individuals live managed lives in the US with the condition, with many like Jessica managing to some rather extraordinary things.
And yet, even researchers continue their struggle to understand cerebral palsy from a medical standpoint, with the most recent medical literature holding that the traditional assignment of asphyxia in infants causing brain damage may not be entirely accurate, as a strong minority of cerebral palsy cases have presented with no known prior incident of hypoxia or other traumatic brain injury. Moreover, cerebral palsy closely mirrors and often is associated with several other disorders, including cognitive difficulties, epilepsy, and organ failure issues throughout the patient’s lifetime.
Making Dreams Come True for this Young Cerebral Palsy Patient
To Kuechly, a native of Ohio himself, his actions are just those of any ordinary person, and in short, Kuechly mentioned his gratitude for the chance to see the happiness in the students, while also having fun with them as well.
One of the growing issues around cerebral palsy patients is the relative difference between themselves and others, which can only complicate already stunted social development. By removing the stigma associated with the disorder, and providing substantive knowledge to the public, positive awareness will ideally be generated to encourage and foster further work on a cure, while also providing for the quality of life of cerebral palsy patients like Jessica.