Sister strides into college life

Allison Smith

Freshman makes best of disability

Acacia Cook, freshman criminal justice major, receives gifts from her Big at Alpha Xi Delta. Cook has cerebral palsy, a condition where the brain doesn’t send signals to certain areas of the body, in this case, her legs. Jessica M. Kanalas | Daily Kent St

Credit: DKS Editors

When Acacia Cook came to Kent State last August for her freshman year, she was nervous. She had the typical freshman jitters everyone gets before they start college, but she was worried people would treat her differently.

“Over the summer I was stressing out about if people would like me or if they would be accepting,” Acacia said, sitting on the ground near her crutches. Acacia has cerebral palsy.

“When you meet new people, you get the stares,” she said. “And I’m not bothered by when people stare, but I would really want them to come up and ask me instead of staring at me.”

Acacia went through sorority recruitment and joined Alpha Xi Delta. During recruitment, she told the girls, “Don’t mind my leg, I know it’s there.”

Cerebral palsy is a condition in which the brain doesn’t send signals to certain areas of the body. She said her condition is called diplegia and only affects the lower half of her body.

“When I was born, they think I didn’t get enough oxygen to my brain. Like, the way they say is ‘the wires got crossed,'” Acacia said. “My brain doesn’t send the signals to my legs to do what normal people’s legs do.”

Acacia uses a forearm crutch to help her get around. Before she was balanced enough, she used a walker and then upgraded to a quad crutch. Acacia said she was able to use just one crutch as her balance improved.

She said she’s used different gadgets throughout the years to help with her condition. She used to use a tense unit to help her legs become more flexible. The unit has gel patches hooked up to a box. She applied the patches to her legs and back, which sent pulses deep into her muscles.

“It actually worked really well,” Acacia said. “It felt like this pulsing. You could feel it in the muscle. I could feel my muscle quivering.”

Acacia said now she gets Botox injected into her leg muscles to help get rid of the spasticity. She said it’s hard to get covered by insurance because most companies think she’s getting the injections for cosmetic reasons.

“Before they started putting it in people’s face, they used it for your muscles and stuff, and then they started putting it in people’s face,” Acacia said. “That’s the kind of fight my mom is having right now with her insurance because they won’t approve it because they want to use their own special kind.”

Acacia said her main goal was to learn how to drive because her mom always warned she might not be able to. After acquiring her license in July, she said she is not having any problems getting around.

“When I got my car, they wanted to put modifications on it. They want me to have the brakes on the steering wheel,” Acacia said. “But I don’t really think I need it.”

Acacia said the brakes operate by a lever that you pull, and she could use the accelerator with her foot. Acacia said she hates being “handled with kid gloves.” She said if she does need help, though, she’s not afraid to ask. But she would prefer not to. She likes to be independent.

“They think that I can’t do anything,” Acacia said. “I get out of my car and I’m carrying all my books and I’m good. You know, I’ve been dealing with cerebral palsy since I was born. You just kind of – you do what you have to do.”

Contact technology reporter Allison Smith at [email protected]