Finding something to smile about


Photo by Ndidi Duru

Story by Mary Claire Boudreaux, Co-Feature Editor

The cold office, the white walls, the tile floor. In comes a somber looking doctor but he doesn’t hesitate when he looks up at freshman Kee’lecia Gipson and says, “We will have to get your legs cut off.”

It started in 7th grade. She developed sores on her legs, much like other wheelchair bound people, but hers was only on her right leg for now. The sores wouldn’t heal. They got infected and started to spread.

“I had legs last year, but I had to get them cut off,” Gipson said. “I had a sore and because of my condition they could never heal”

Gipson has a condition called Spina Bifida. Spina Bifida is is where the spinal canal does not form correctly. She was also born with Hydrocephalus, a condition where too much spinal fluid builds up, putting pressure on the brain. Spina Bifida can cause paralysis, and people who are paralyzed are more prone to skin breakdown and ulcers. They don’t heal as well and get infected. If the cut or sore cannot heal it has to be cut off to keep the infection from spreading.

“I’ve never been able to walk like normal people, I was on crutches or in a wheelchair my whole life,” Gipson said. “So, getting my legs amputated didn’t change my abilities or routine, just the stares of ‘woah she doesn’t have legs.’ But come Easter and I’m getting prosthetics.”

She has always had the wheelchair ramp. She was always able to get around her house in a chair, but she also had legs to move about.The difference was balance. Balance waking up in the morning, balance moving from chair to wheelchair, balance in everything.

“I have to remember I can’t walk at all,” said Gipson. “Like when I’m sitting in a chair and have to transfer from a wheelchair. The weirdest thing is that it sometimes feels like my foot itches and then I’m like ‘wait I don’t have a foot.’”

The 5th grade Kee’lecia Gipson looked up at her mom and asked why everyone stared at her. The answer was simple and short, simple and sad, simple but true: You are different. They are scared because they don’t understand.

“I started to research my condition and find the best way to explain it to people to make them more comfortable,” said Gipson. “Some people stare at me but Ill just ask, ‘do you wanna know what happened?’ You don’t have to feel sorry or say things like ‘Oh my God, I’m so sorry.” I don’t have legs, big deal. I can still do what y’all do. I draw and I sing, just as good as everyone else.”

Some people look at Gipson and think “poor girl” or “bless her heart.” But, Gipson looks at her condition in a positive outlook. Soon, she won’t be much different anyways, she is getting prosthetics.

And, regardless, she will still be the same girl. The same girl with legs, the same girl without legs just prostetics.

“Really, I’m just happy I’m alive,” Gipson said. “People always ask what happened to me, and I explain. They always say ‘well you’re still smiling.’ Yeah, I got to. I’m still alive.”