, Corbin, KY

September 28, 2011

Making Your Life Stronger Through Adversity

The Times-Tribune

CORBIN — Click to view Voice of Faith, September 2011 Issue in its entirety.

By: Loren Maloney

I was born with Spina Bifida, a serious birth abnormality in which the spinal cord is malformed and lacks its usual protective skeletal and soft tissue covering. At the point of the malformation, the nerves were exposed. I had to have an operation within the first few hours of birth to close the spine, but it could not reverse my paralysis.

Spina Bifida is much more common than people realize. Approximately one in every 1,000 babies born has some form of neurotube defect. In Southeastern Kentucky, that number increases to approximately one in every 500 births. Mine, by definition is the most severe form of Spina Bifida, called Myelomeningocele. Needless to say, my early prognosis from the doctor was not good. As a matter of fact, when I was only a few weeks old, the doctors told my parents I would probably never be able to sit up on my own! I can’t even begin to image the fear those words brought to my parents. But at the same time, I am amazed and thankful for the place that God has brought me to today. You see, God has guided that same little baby, who warranted that bleak diagnosis, safely to the age of 32 years old and one of the healthiest periods of time in my whole life.  

Don’t misunderstand me though. I’m not going to tell you my journey has come without its struggles and trials. That simply wouldn’t be true. I’ve had 10 major surgeries. A ventricular shunt remains nestled between the ventricles of my brain to control spinal fluid pressure. This is literally a life-saver! However, on a less serious note , my challenges have given me great lines to use like, “Don’t make me get up” and “That’s just how I roll!” A good sense of humor is priceless when facing obstacles.

Obstacles aside, I’m a very blessed individual, because I am equipped with the right weapons to overcome adversity. I have God and a very strong, supportive and loving network of family and friends. Mom and dad taught me at a very early age that life might not always be easy but if you put your trust in God, He and He alone will see you through it all. Honestly, there is no greater advice you can get beyond that. They always encouraged and guided me through the many recoveries and into improvement. I sincerely thank them for that! I also have a brother that is five years older than I who has always been very supportive and helpful. When we were younger, he was constantly coming up with ideas and ways to entertain me, and he is still my best friend today.

I get asked all the time, “Don’t you ever get frustrated when you have struggles with your disability?” Sure, there are times when I do. In truth, we all have struggles. But those moments are so incredibly few and far between now. I don’t question God as to why He allowed “this” to happen to me anymore. I learned the answer to that question several years ago during my middle school years. That period of time can be very awkward and challenging in itself. I remember having a really hard time dealing with the fact that I wouldn’t get to participate in some sort of school event because my using a wheelchair would make it difficult, if not impossible, to attend. I remember closing my eyes and asking God, “Why did this happen to me?” I was sitting in the passenger seat of my car when I heard a very powerful voice speaking to me saying, ”The reason this happened to you is so others can see how you deal with it, and it will be a blessing to them.” To this day, this moment remains the most powerful moment of my life! From that second on, I never complained about anything surrounding my physical condition. How could I, really? 1 Peter 1:7 (English Revised Version) says, that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perisheth, though it be tried by fire, might be found unto praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

God has opened so many doors for me throughout my life. He’s just THAT awesome! Without His plan, would I have experienced my recreational passion, wheelchair basketball? Without His plan would I have been a member of ‘Sports on Wheels’, a recreational wheelchair sports group that I was a part of from start to finish? Let me tell you more about my 15 years involvement with ‘Sports on Wheels’.

I was going to physical therapy here in Corbin. My physical therapist, Marcee Hooper, told me one of her new patients had been to her following an accident that left him paralyzed, and she was looking for a way to inspire him. She told me she had this idea of starting a wheelchair sports group, and asked if I’d be interested in joining. I told her to count me in, especially if it meant wheelchair basketball! We started with a very small group that grew larger more quickly than I ever thought possible. Initially, I was by far the youngest player on my wheelchair basketball team. Eventually, we started playing against other organized teams, and even hosted our own tournament at the Corbin Recreation Center (and won it). We started playing a team out of Lexington with many more years of experience. The last time we played them, it was a very close game. We made huge progress. We also had a volleyball team that had the opportunity to compete in Churchill Downs in Louisville on more than one occasion. I also got to experience what I describe as a real sense of freedom, by enjoying the sport of adaptive water-skiing!

My group also had the opportunity to travel to area middle schools and high schools to conduct assembly programs. We would first talk to the students about persevering over adversity and explain to them the wheelchair doesn’t make us weird or strange. It’s just how we get around and is basically just an extension of our body. It was truly awesome to see the difference this made in their attitudes and perceptions toward people that use wheelchairs. That’s something I am very proud to have had a role in helping to accomplish! In the eyes of those students, I literally went from being stared at to being approached and asked, “Hey, aren’t you the guy that came to my school and played wheelchair basketball?”

I am SO greatly blessed with the opportunities I’ve been given at my church, East Side Church of God! My pastor, Rev. Randall Lee, asked me if I would be interested in running the ‘MediaShout’ computer program there. I run announcements, Bible Scriptures, song lyrics, and full-motion background videos during all the services. At first I was reluctant to try it. However, Brother Lee really encouraged me and assured me I was capable of doing it, and I’m SO glad he did. It’s proven to be an awesome opportunity and blessing to me in many ways! I consider this to be more than just a volunteer job, I consider it my ministry! Brother Lee is not only a wonderful pastor and minister of the Word, he is a great friend. I just think the world of him. Also I am SO blessed to have a wonderful Associate Pastor/Youth Pastor in Rev. Sean Disney. I would also consider him as one of my best friends. Brother Lee and Brother Disney are two more examples of God putting great people in my life at exactly the time that I needed them. I am so thankful for that!

I believe life is what we make it, and with God, family, friends, and a positive attitude, there’s nothing we can’t do! This is who I am; I’m a very happy, positive, and blessed person. I put God first, always have a positive attitude, and grow from the lessons I learn through life and its ups and downs. I know I can look back at my life at the end with no regrets. God has blessed me with an awesome family, great friends, and a wonderful church family. I’m so glad He showed me His plan is what matters most!