Gwen was born with profound developmental disabilities however they were not apparent immediately. Doctor’s could not agree if there was something wrong. Her family recognized that she was not developing but the doctor’s were confused by her disabilities.
When she was six years old, she was evaluated by the National Institute Health and John Hopkins Hospital. They discovered that she had a very rare chromosomal defect. She was one of nine children in the world with this particular disability.
The doctor’s could not tell us what to expect. They advised my parents to place her in an institution for the rest of her life. Our parents rejected that advice and proceeded to try to provide Gwen with the best possible life she could have.
We taught her to walk, to count, to feed herself. We took care of her needs, we loved her and she loved us back.
She was born the fourth child of a military family, our father was a career army officer. She became a world traveler early in her life and touched many all over the world.
In Thailand, our good friends, a group of missionaries, members of the Camilian Order, gave Gwen a relic from St Camilius to watch over her. Gwen has had to deal with multiple severe disabilities. Her primary disability is profound mental retardation. However, she had, after a rocky and slow start always been able to walk and run.
In 2009, Gwen fell getting out of bed. She fractured a vertebra in her neck and sustained a spinal contusion. This left her paralyzed from the neck down. The team of doctor’s did a cervical fusion. Three months later Gwen walked out of Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital mostly on her own. She had regained the use of most of her arms and legs but still had long way to go.
When she was 11 years old she had spinal surgery to place a Harrington rod next to her spine and a spinal fusion. This was to stop the progresssion of severe spinal scoliosis. Now as a result of both surgeries her spine was fused from top to bottom. There is no bending or twisting or turning for her. This caused challenges for her recovery and the doctor’s weren’t optimistic. Gwen proved them wrong.
Then one year later, just when she was doing really well, she fell again and broke her hip. With another year of recovery, and back almost walking well again, she fell and broke the other hip. The doctor said she would walk with a walker for the rest of her life. Once again she has proved them wrong and is mostly walking on her own. I am confident she will make a full recovery.
These recoveries are the result of a lot of hard work by Gwen, her family, caregivers and doctors. Everyone around Gwen supports her. Everywhere I go I meet people who have been touched by Gwen. Gwen has been an inspiration to us all. She never gives up. She expects nothing from anyone.
She loves to help around the house, go swimming and like all us girls, lives to shop! A good day for Gwen is a swim at the pool, a shopping trip to most any store, pancakes for breakfast and spaghetti for dinner and spending time with those you love.