ComebackTown is published by David Sher to begin a discussion on a more prosperous Birmingham.
Today’s guest blogger is Zach Woolley. If you’d like to be a guest blogger, please click here.
Birmingham has kept me alive. Literally!
I’m a twenty eight year old guy with Cerebral Palsy. Very physically disabled. Yep, looking at me you see many of the stereotypical (and, actually, pretty common) characteristics of someone with CP. Not so great.
CP has not stopped me
However, I lead a full life, grew up here, and graduated from a local high school, Oak Mountain High, with honors. I then attended Mississippi State and graduated with a double degree in political science and philosophy and completed an internship in DC working for the Department of Education. Now, I’m living back here finishing up law school at Birmingham School of Law.
That last paragraph sounds pretty inspirational to a lot of people but to me – it’s surviving.
Birmingham nationally recognized
I’m not sure how many people realize just how lucky we are to live in a city and area with such amazing healthcare and organizations that work with individuals and families. There are educational and support systems working with the special needs community which are nationally recognized.
It’s funny, realizing all this healthcare stuff this isn’t the top of the list for most of us in our 20’s – really good craft beer locations are! But when it impacts you personally, you really get it!
I was actually born in Los Angeles at Cedars Sinai Hospital which kept me alive since I came into the world around three months pre-mature and weighing around two pounds. My parents knew they would need to get back here for family support. What is very nice is that even twenty eight years ago, The Children’s Hospital of Alabama had such a great reputation, my LA healthcare team was fully confident I would have the support and care I needed back here in Birmingham. As soon as possible, my parents were meeting with doctors and our course was set. I was a “regular” at Children’s until I aged out! Their care and skill brought me through many surgeries and emergencies.
From the hospital, my parents were introduced to support groups and life changing organizations such as United Ability, formerly United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Birmingham. I rode horses with Special Equestrians, attended Camp ASSCA many times, created art with Very Special Arts, played boccia across the country with Lakeshore, became much more involved with my faith due to Camp McDowell and Special Sessions – all very giving entities of support and love.
I was given Last Rites
Healthcare continues to be a major concern for me. Right at two years ago, I almost died. In fact, I was given Last Rites. But, with the amazing teams at UAB, they saved me and continue to support my ongoing recovery. So, if you have to be sick – Birmingham is the place to do it!
But, as wonderful as that is, we need support in other ways. When you vote, you need to look at the candidates who support those you love. It’s very confusing when acquaintances tell you how much they admire and love you and then vote for candidates who are willing to strip the American Disabilities Act.
Don’t judge who gets healthcare
If you do love and respect me, then I should be more of a concern than a tax break for you in your decision. If you do feel I have a wonderful family who has brought me up to be as strong and independent as possible, vote in ways that that supports my family, not tear it apart. Don’t judge who gets healthcare and who doesn’t – that often determines who lives and dies. That’s a bigger decision than any of us!
I guess I’m just asking people to put their prejudices aside and vote for those who support folks like me. Also, remember that you can see my disabilities — there are so many have much deeper issues than I have — they’re just hidden. The older I get, the more important guts and true support forms the basis for my love. I have to respect someone to love them. So, empty words without support is something that truly bothers and disappoints me.
I’m asking you to work and vote beyond your party lines, things that just impacts your immediate community, and even try to remember those you don’t really know. It will make our home a much better place.
In all, this is a great place to live. We’re blessed with great healthcare and support. To improve, let’s help Birmingham and Alabama in general, to give a larger piece of their hearts to those who are different – inside and out. Just because someone is different, that’s not a reason to judge.
I see change here and am very excited to see it grow…
Zach Woolley is a graduate of Oak Mountain High School, has earned degrees in political science and philosophy from Mississippi State University, and he currently attends the Birmingham School Of Law. Born with Cerebral Palsy, Zach has faced and overcome multiple health challenges including a recent near-death experience. He plans to use his law degree and real-life experience to be an advocate for healthcare reform and the rights of the disabled.
David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).
Invite David to speak to your group about a better Birmingham. firstname.lastname@example.org