By Sam Horn
8,000 babies and infants are diagnosed with cerebral palsy every year, according to the cerebral palsy facts and statistics on About.com. This deadly disease affects the brain and the physical attributes of humans. In some cases, it can be extremely debilitating. Some people who have cerebral palsy can’t walk; they are confined to wheelchairs. As stated by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website, “cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture.” However, one man doesn’t let cerebral palsy prevent him from living a healthy, natural lifestyle.
A junior at Pacific Lutheran University, Kroy Miller towers over his companions and professors. Standing at 6 feet 7 inches, Miller is one of the tallest students at Pacific Lutheran University. When you notice him walking around campus, his gait is different from other people. That is because his entire right hemisphere has cerebral palsy.
“People who don’t know me will come up to me and ask me if they can do anything to help but I say that I’m fine and that I can take care of myself. I don’t like to be dependent, and I grew up with two older siblings, Kristen and Kristopher, who didn’t let me be the dependent child,” Miller said.
Normally, people who have cerebral palsy don’t partake in sports. Miller, however, isn’t like most people with cerebral palsy. Miller grew up loving the realm of sports, and participated in soccer, ultimate frisbee and baseball as an adolescent.
“We [my wife and I] always told Kroy that he could do anything and we supported him in his sports endeavors,” Michael Miller, Kroy’s father, said.
Playing sports with cerebral palsy is not an easy task though. Kroy has had to adjust based on what he can and can’t do with his right arm and leg. In baseball, Kroy throws with his left hand and catches with his left hand as well. He then grabs the top of the baseball glove with the right hand in order to throw with the left hand. Kroy also has to adapt to the sport of ultimate frisbee in order to excel at it. Kroy tells his teammates to throw the frisbee to him on his left side so he can easily catch it, because his right side is debilitated.
“I was in band in high school and I saw people playing it [ultimate frisbee]. I have always been decent at throwing the frisbee, so I finally learned the game of ultimate frisbee and how much fun it is to play,” Kroy Miller said.
Kroy has had to overcome much adversity in order to be where is he is today. If he hadn’t received four surgeries, who knows how easily he could run and walk despite having cerebral palsy. Kroy has had three surgeries on his right leg and one on the right arm.
The first surgery was on his right leg when he was in third grade. The doctors stretched the Achilles tendon and rotated the right foot so his stride is more normal. Kroy had his second surgery in eighth grade on his right leg as well. Since Kroy grew so much since third grade, the Achilles tendon had to be stretched again. The arm surgery came in eighth grade as well. For the arm, the doctors switched some tendons around in the hand so Kroy could have more flexibility in his arm and be able to rotate his hand. The most recent surgery was conducted on Kroy’s right leg when he was in eleventh grade. Since Kroy had grown even more, his Achilles tendon was even tighter. After enough times of stretching the Achilles tendon, however, the muscle gets really hard. Therefore, the doctors cut a little bit into the Achilles tendon so it could essentially ‘breathe.’
“It’s very inspirational to see Kroy be so successful in athletics. When we’re throwing the baseball or football around, I never need to make any adjustments in how I play to accommodate him,” David Loughlin, one of Kroy’s good friends, said, “What’s remarkable is that not only can he play sports, but he can perform them in a way that almost makes you forget he has a disability.”