Happy Little Accidents…

I have never been the most artistic person in the world. Despite this I appreciate art very much. It is enjoyable to stroll through Chicago’s Art Institute. There you can see paintings by some of the greatest artists who have ever lived, such as Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, and Georges Seurat. I have often thought that I don’t really have any true talents, at least not to the same degree as these artists.

When I was a teenager, my friend Charlie and I would watch episodes of the “Joy of Painting” with Bob Ross. I know he is not even close to being as great as the artists that I mentioned above. However, he seemed to make things look so easy. It was always sort of a desire of mine to try my hand at doing a class where I could learn how to paint like Bob Ross.

He had such a calm demeanor. Bob also seemed to enjoy everything that he did, especially when it came to “beating the devil” out of his brush as he would dip it in paint thinner and then whack it against the leg of the easel on which his canvas was sitting. While watching Bob, art seemed like something that I could do. Why couldn’t I mix up some phthalo blue and some titanium white and paint some “happy little clouds?” I might even be able to add some Van Dyke brown or some yellow ochre and paint some trees. Why shouldn’t I be able to create a world where mountains and streams live happily side by side on canvas? With these thoughts in mind I did indeed take a class with a “Bob Ross Certified Instructor.” What I didn’t foresee was that my color blindness might be a detriment to creating my own world on canvas.

As a birthday gift, Amanda bought us a session with a certified instructor that would show us how to paint in the style of Bob Ross. My sister-in-law Alice tagged along as well. We were all excited to try our hand at creating a landscape with lots of “little happy trees” and pristine mountains. However, as soon as we got started I knew this was going to be harder than Bob made it look on television. For one, I could not tell the difference between the various shades of red and green that were on our palettes. I have always had a difficult time distinguishing between dark greens and reds. Therefore, it was almost impossible for me to follow along as the instructor was telling us which colors we should mix together to create various parts of the landscape that we were painting. Despite my struggles it was still fun trying to create something.

I can safely say that I will never have any my work hanging in the galleries of any great museums. However, it was fun to fulfill my desire to try my hand at painting. I would definitely take another class. I am just not sure if the results would be any different. I’m certain that my painting would still resemble something that a 2nd grader has done. I’ll stick to writing. It is a place where I can escape. I enjoy putting my thoughts into words. It helps me to create a world in which I feel happy. Plus, I don’t have to clean any brushes afterwards. Oh, and just in case you were curious to see my painting. Just take a look below and tell me what you think. I made lots of “little happy accidents” as you can see. However, I am not to worried about it. I am sure Bob would have something positive to say. I don’t think he ever expressed any negativity. That just might be the best lesson he ever taught.

A Ryan Bradshaw Original

2 + 2 = 4…or is it 5?

According to spinabifida.org “more than 10 million people worldwide have spina bifida.” Of those 10 million individuals, “approximately 90%” also have a disorder known as hydrocephalus. This disorder results in a disruption “in the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) through the pathways of the ventricles of the brain.” This abnormal flow of CSF “causes pressure on the brain.” Cerebral spinal fluid is a “clear, saltwater-like liquid that surrounds the brain.” Its job is to provide protection and hydration for the brain. Another function of CSF is to transport waste “away from brain cells.” Cerebrospinal fluid also supplies the brain with “important chemicals and nutrients.” Every “day the brain produces about 500mL of cerebrospinal fluid.” This fluid makes “a continuous circuit through the brain cavities (ventricles), and over the surface of the brain and spinal cord until it is absorbed by the body.” For those with hydrocephalus CSF is “constantly being produced” as normal, “but it cannot get out” to travel its regular circuit. Therefore, “it accumulates and causes raised pressure inside the brain.” This build up of pressure causes the ventricles to become enlarged, which in turn causes brain tissue to stretch and compress (spinabifida.org). Without proper treatment, babies born with hydrocephalus will die very soon after birth.

Within two hours of my birth, I was rushed by ambulance from Community General Hospital in Sterling, Illinois to Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. It was here that Dr. David McLone implanted what is called a VP shunt. The VP stands for ventriculoperitoneal. Basically, what this means is that, I have a shunt that runs from the ventricles in my brain down into my abdomen or peritoneal cavity. This shunt drains the excess cerebrospinal fluid from my brain so that pressure is not allowed to build.

Learning disabilities are quite common for those born with hydrocephalus. Unfortunately, I am one of the many for whom this is true. For instance, throughout most of my schooling I had a very difficult time understanding math, especially algebra. This caused a lot of frustration while I was in high school. Understanding abstract concepts has always been a struggle for me. I can remember being in high school and feeling as if I would never make it through all of the various math classes that I had to take in order to graduate. However, with the help of several very good and patient teachers, such as Ruth Day and Cathy McCallister, I was able to complete my required coursework. I graduated from high school in 1995 and then it was on to college.

I started my college career at Sauk Valley Community College in Dixon, Illinois. Before starting at Sauk I had to take a placement test. To my horror, I was placed in remedial math. This meant that I would have to work my way up through several math classes in order to graduate. Starting out in remedial math classes was almost enough to make me want to through in the towel. However, I persisted and slogged my way up the ranks. In hindsight, I feel as if these classes helped me to review concepts that I had forgotten since high school. I also spent a lot of time in the Learning Assistance Center, receiving tutoring and extra help with my math classes. I give a lot of credit to Kay Turk and Jerry McNair for helping me pass these classes. They provided me with special attention, which enabled me to receive my Associate’s Degree in Communication Arts. However, this took me three years due to all of the time spent making my way through all of the math courses that I had to take.

After graduating from Sauk Valley Community College in the summer of 1998, I was on to Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois. To my relief, once I enrolled at Trinity I realized that I would not have to take any more math! This is because I transferred in with my Associate’s Degree in Communication Arts. I cannot tell you how happy this made me. Maybe getting my four-year degree was something that was actually attainable after all.

I then completed two years at Trinity, where I received my Bachelor of Arts in Communications. I followed this up in 2012 with a Master’s Degree in School Counseling from St. Xavier University. Math is still my enemy. Ask me to do long division and I will just roll my eyes. Algebra is just a distant memory. I could not even begin to tell you how to do trigonometry or calculus. However, I am pretty good with geometry. I think this is because I can visualize angles, circumferences, and areas.

In conclusion, I’d write a 50-page research before I would ever attempt to do physics. Words are fun to me. I like to express myself through the written word. Equations are pointless to me. However, essays are something that I could write endlessly. I know 4+4 = 8 and that 5 x 2 = 10. Addition and multiplication are easy, but please, for the love of God don’t ever ask me to do long division ever again!

Diagram of VP shunt (https://www.ausmed.com/cpd/articles/hydrocephalus-and-shunts)

Put the Crippled Kid up Front…

Thanks for joining me!

“Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.” — Lord Byron

Me at 6 years old looking quite dapper for my debut in a medical journal. The eyes were blacked out to provide anonymity. However, the leisure suit was screaming “I’m loud and I am proud!”

Writing a blog is an idea that I have had for quite some time. However, I have always hesitated because I was not sure anyone would be interested in anything that I have to say. Then, it occurred to me that writing is something that can be very therapeutic. If people enjoy what I have to say then that is just a bonus.

Since I was in high school I have always enjoyed writing. Being a life-long introvert, writing gave me a way to express myself. It also helped me to unlock some of the thoughts I had kept bottled up inside of me for many years.

When I was born my parents were told to take me home and love me and to treat me as they would any other child. The problem with that is I was not like any other child. I was born with a birth defect called spina bifida, which would require frequent trips to Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

Children’s was like a home away from home for much of my adolescence. Despite what you might think, I have fond memories of Children’s. The nurses and doctors there provided a level of care that was second to none. This was also a place, where as a young boy, I began to see the absurdity in life.

Self-deprecating humor got me through many days and nights in the hospital. If I was not able to laugh at situations it would just lead to frustration. Having a disability is frustrating!

Living in a world that was not made for someone like me forces one to overcome. Thank goodness for my stubborness and for my sense of humor. They are two assets that I have used in my life to climb over obstacles.

This leads me to why I chose “Put the Crippled Kid up Front” as the name for this blog. This comes from an incident when my family and I were at a local restaurant. The wait for a table was quite long, so my mom whispered, “put the crippled kid up front.” I then walked to where the owner of the restaurant could see me. He took one look at me and we had a table.

Since this time “put the crippled kid up front” has become an inside joke for my family. It is a way that I have used humor to overcome obstacles. It has also led to some surprises along the way.

In this blog I will share some of those surprises and will explore how living life with a disability can be both challenging and rewarding. I hope you will stick around and see where life has taken me.