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Twice Reborn This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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1988, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Tuy was beginning another day in the rice paddies. It was slow and meticulous work, pulling weeds one by one with the hot summer sun beating on his back. He would carefully move down the row, taking one side step at a time. As he stepped to his left, he heard a click. Tuy froze. Having been forced to serve in the Khmer Rouge for many years, he knew what that sound meant: in a matter of seconds, his life would change forever. When the landmine went off, it blew Tuy 10 feet into the air, taking both his legs with it.



2005, Concord, New Hampshire

I'm in my fifth-grade classroom and I stand up to walk to the chalkboard. As I start walking, my back spasms, which throws my head back. My leg won't straighten. I reluctantly look to my friend for help and he comes to my aid, grabbing my arm and helping me to the chalkboard. Although I am thankful for his support, I don't like needing it. I want to walk normally.

Walking is something most of us take for granted – until we can't do it. From fifth to tenth grade I had a lot of trouble walking because of a neurological disease called dystonia. I was in and out of a wheelchair for much of those five years. When I first got the wheelchair, I remember I considered putting a “temporary” sign on the back because I couldn't stand the idea of not being able to walk. But very quickly I learned how to pop a wheelie and started racing fellow students (and the occasional teacher) down the hallway. The wheelchair that I was initially afraid of gave me back a large part of my mobility and allowed me to be more self-reliant.

Like me, Tuy also couldn't stand the idea of not being able to walk. Yet for 22 years he was forced to rely on others to help him move around. In the summer of 2009, I went to Cambodia and helped build wheelchairs for Tuy and 11 others.

Building wheelchairs was humbling, but giving them out was remarkable. Helping others regain their mobility was an incredible experience. Yet a wheelchair is not just a mode of transportation. For many it gives back a sense of confidence and independence they lost with their ability to walk. When Tuy picked out his wheelchair and began to move around freely, it was as though he was reborn.

I know the feeling. It happened to me twice: first, when I was given a wheelchair, and second, when I had deep brain stimulation surgery, which involved the placement of two probes inside my brain. A month later, I slowly began to regain my ability to walk, and this time, I looked normal.

My experience with dystonia made me a candidate with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. My wish was to go to Cambodia to build and distribute wheelchairs to those who were disfigured by landmines.

Because of dystonia, I am a different person. I now greatly value my independence and have learned to never give up. Yet that's not all that changed. I have developed a different view of life. I now appreciate the little things, whether it's being able to stand up in the shower or just walk around with friends. I am almost always smiling, and I make sure I don't take a day for granted because you never know what might happen tomorrow.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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Lizz said...
Mar. 17, 2012 at 6:37 pm:
Excellent. So inspiring. You are an incredible individual and it's awesome that your wish was to help people. The parallelism with Tuy is really good. College essay? I think this could work (I didn't check the # of characters, though)
 
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magic-esi This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 9, 2011 at 7:17 pm:
This is an excellent article. You've done a really good job of portraying your troubles compared with Tuy's, and it is very inspiring. I especially like that your wish was to help others. That's very rare in a person. Amazing article. Great job!
 
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