Marion County girl's goals know no boundaries
If by some miracle this Christmas 11-year-old Amanda Atwood of Bradfordsville could suddenly move her arms and legs for the first time in her life, what would she do first?
"I've always wanted to brush my own hair and get dressed all by myself," she said.
Amanda, a sixth-grade honor student at Lebanon Middle School, was born with a rare joint and muscle disorder that left her essentially paralyzed from the neck down.
"They call it arthrogryposis," she said. " … At first I was scared and didn't know what to think. I thought I was going to have a bad life, but it's turned out great."
She wants to be in gymnastics and would like to be a cheerleader.
"I'm going to try out for cheerleading next year," she insists. "Even though I can't do the moves, I can holler really loud, and I'm outgoing. I want to be a fashion designer when I grow up. I draw clothes all the time."
Sometimes she sketches fashions on the computer with the help of a mouthpiece, but she has become so proficient with a pencil held between her teeth that she won the "Penmanship Award" when she graduated from fifth grade at Calvary Elementary School.
Those who know her won't be surprised if Amanda does become a cheerleader or a fashion designer. There is power in her dreams.
"Sometimes I just sit and stare and make myself into a Barbie doll and visualize her doing stuff I can't do -- like walking and running and jumping and acting weird," Amanda said. "I really feel like I'm doing it right then and there, even though it's just in my mind -- and it's amazing."
Amanda operates the controls of her wheelchair by changing her shoulder position and shifting her weight.
Going the extra mile
Donna Sandusky, a Lebanon Middle School instructional aide who has become friends with Amanda, said the sixth-grader almost always goes beyond what is required for her assignments.
"She loves to write, she always gets accelerated reader points and it's amazing what she can draw," said Sandusky. "She's always smiling when she gets off the bus."
Principal Daniel Iams described her as one of the most positive students he has known.
Classmates Emily Gribbins, Alex Parman and Tessa Simpson have each tried writing with a pencil held between their teeth and could do little more than scribble.
"There's a whole lot of things about her that really make me feel good, but there's one in particular: Other kids look up to her and don't see her as being handicapped," said her father, Anthony Atwood.
A few years ago during attempted corrective spinal surgery, something went wrong and Amanda had to be placed on a respirator.
"When she woke up, I was crying, and she started crying," said her mother, Sandy Atwood. "She finally managed to tell me that she was worried about me crying -- and here she was on a respirator."
Then there are the good times.
"One day my brothers were baby-sitting me and they said, 'Anything that you want to do that you can't do, we'll help you do it,' " Amanda recalled. "They let me ride a scooter, they let me ride a bike, they let me wash the dishes -- everything I wanted to do -- and we made a big mess out of everything. It was funny."
Byron Crawford's column appears on the Metro page Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. You can reach him at (502) 582-4791 or e-mail him at email@example.com. You can also read his columns at www.courier-journal.com.