The walk at graduation is almost here

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Three months have flown by since I last informed you about my walking journey. When I posted in February, I started using a walker that worked extremely well for me because it came equipped with hip support, a buckle for my waist, and straps to keep my arms from flaring around while I walked. As a refresher, in October I walked 320 feet and in February I walked 438 feet. I broke more records when I walked 546 feet in March and 623 feet in April.

As you can tell, I have made tremendous progress each time I use the walker in physical therapy and I am increasing my stamina on a weekly basis. I started this journey out walking for distance, but for the past two months the focus has been on getting me to walk in short spurts because the graduation stage is fairly short. Like any student-athlete who is preparing for a game or a race, it takes me a little while to get into the groove of things; usually my first walk of each therapy session is shaky, but then it is smooth sailing from there.

Lauren Shipman walkingOne day about three months ago, I decided to stand behind my wheelchair and let go of the handles; surprisingly, I was able to stand unsupported for three seconds. I know this does not sound like a long time but, for a person who was never able to stand on their own, it felt amazing. Now I am able to stand unsupported for over one minute. Although I will never have the ability to stand for long periods of time without support, gaining muscle strength in my legs is a huge key in eventually becoming independent with a walker.

I have been going to physical therapy for nine months and have been eager to walk in public to show people my progress prior to the big reveal on graduation day. So I walked into my senior seminar class and stood while presenting my final project. It felt amazing to walk/stand for the first time EVER in front of my peers and my teacher. When I walked into my classroom, the initial reaction from the students was complete shock. As I stood in front of my peers to present, a feeling of empowerment rushed over me because I did something that I have watched my peers do throughout their entire lives.

I never wanted anything more in my life than to have the ability to walk without someone holding my hands. I felt discouraged for 25 years because my therapists and doctors always thought it would be impossible due to my severity of cerebral palsy; therefore, walking was never on my radar screen. Last spring a light bulb went on in my hand, which gave me the motivation to prove myself and other people wrong by taking the “walking” challenge. When I started physical therapy back in August I barely could walk ten feet without three people holding the walker and guiding my foot placement. Now it is less than a week before graduation and I am about to walk across stage to receive my hard-earned diploma that I have been striving to achieve for eight years. Accomplishing these two major milestones—walking and graduating—in front of my family, friends, peers, students, faculty, and staff members at Neumann University will undoubtedly be a joyous, inspiring, and momentous celebration.

Thank you very much to everyone who has experienced my walking journey alongside me throughout the school year. To the Class of 2015, I am beyond thrilled to show you all what nine physically challenging months resulted in as I (and we) approach the graduation stage!

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