|Narrated by Jim Meskimen
As a child, John Quinn had a dream of a naval career despite his affliction with cerebral palsy. After failing the physical exam, he underwent painful, self applied physical therapy for one year then successfully passed a second exam. He kept his cerebral palsy a secret from the record keepers and medical authorities for 20 years. He had a distinguished and highly decorated career despite the pain he endured to appear normal. He served on board destroyers, a battleship, two aircraft carriers and functioned as an administrator for a Seal unit. The outside world also impacted on him further aggravating his cerebral palsy when he was challenged by alcoholism and excessive grief caused by the suicide of a brother. With help, John Quinn triumphed over both, as he did the painful cerebral palsy.
“When is the last time that you read a book and it changed the way you think? When is the last time that a book led to a change in how you conducted yourself in your career? “Someone Like Me, An Unlikely Story of Challenge and Triumph over Cerebral Palsy” by John Quinn did that for me.
I have been treating individuals with cerebral palsy for over 20 years at the University of Michigan. I am a Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine Specialist, and I speak to families with children who have cerebral palsy about all aspects of their lives including movement, language, education, and their child’s future. Over the years, many of my patients have stayed with me as they grew into adulthood, and they present now with new and different problems.
There are hundreds of thousands of adults with cerebral palsy in the United States. Many, like John, live and work side by side with their non-disabled peers, overcoming challenges on a daily basis. Although cerebral palsy does not get worse, the effects it has on the body tend to increase with age. Pain is a common complaint, limiting mobility and the ability to perform functional tasks. Muscle tightness, early joint arthritis, and other medical problems interfere more with life as the person ages. These problems can also limit physical activity, which then leads to more pain, muscle and joint complications. Adults with cerebral palsy also face difficulties getting proper medical care since so few specialists have, until recently, been interested in their health issues. Pediatric specialists only want to see children, and adult specialists do not have adequate information about cerebral palsy.
Based on the potential for the problems noted above, one standard of care for teens and young adults with cerebral palsy was to advise them to seek careers and lifestyles that would not challenge them physically. I always taught students and resident physicians to counsel them about computer work and other sedentary, less active careers combined with mild to moderate exercise. I did not meet John Quinn as a teen, but if I had, I could imagine myself saying something like, “After all, John, you are not exactly cut out for the Navy Seals!”
“Someone Like Me, An Unlikely Story of Challenge and Triumph over Cerebral Palsy” has opened my eyes to a new horizon for individuals with cerebral palsy. As a rehabilitation physician, my goal has always been to open doors and increase opportunities for young people with disabilities. However, I see that I have not advised my patients to push the horizon enough. Thanks to John Quinn, I now know that given determination, bravery and desire, much more is possible for my patients than I could imagine before. This book is a must for every physician, therapist, and other caregiver that treats individuals with cerebral palsy or any other disability. It also is a must for every young person who ever looked at a goal and thought it was just out of reach. Perhaps he or she should look again.” — Edward A. Hurvitz, M.D. Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Michigan.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: johnwquinn.com