Walter’s an inspiration
Cerebral palsy no bar to uni
Like everyone else, Walter Pokoati of Titahi Bay has his good and bad days, but it’s how he deals with the bad days that sets him apart.
The 17- year- old Tawa College student has diplegic cerebral palsy. He has defied doctors and the odds and is set to go to Victoria University next year.
He wants to study clinical psychology to help others who are confined to wheelchairs.
Walter didn’t have an easy start to life. He was one of quadruplets, born 14 weeks premature, and his young brother died after 36 hours.
At a week old, Walter caught an infection, was deprived of oxygen and had to be resuscitated twice.
The lack of oxygen caused a type of cerebral palsy that affected the muscles in his lower body, leaving his body twisted. He has been in a wheelchair since birth.
His mother Gina’s perserverance has enabled Walter to be schooled in the mainstream system, through Ngati Toa School, Porirua School, Tawa Intermediate and now Tawa College.
He said his family, faith, and determination to overcome his disability every day carries him on.
‘‘I’ve had a lot of surgery [including three surgeries in the past three months to straighten his foot], but I’m not going to sit around feeling sorry for myself,’’ he said.
‘‘I want to show people that being in a wheelchair or having a disability is not going to hold me back. No way.’’
Eighteen months ago Walter defied the odds and began to use crutches.
He credits his orthopaedic surgeon Tim Gregg, his family’s support – especially older siblings Nanave and Ngariki – and staff at Cityfitness in Porirua for helping him make it happen.
His personal trainer, Chris McManus, has worked with Walter for the past nine months.
He said Walter’s legs and upper body were getting stronger, but it was his attitude that impressed most.
‘‘ It hasn’t changed. He comes in twice a week with a big smile. He has challenges, sure, but he has a big ticker,’’ Mr McManus said.
Gina ‘‘cries constantly’’, with sadness and joy, watching what her boy goes through and how he tackles each day. She is confident he will achieve his goals in life.
‘‘He is brilliant, his disability does not get to him. He doesn’t know any better and he grabs what life has given him,’’ she said.
‘‘If he feels he can walk, I believe he will.
‘‘If he can one day get up and say ‘ Mum, can I have this dance, I’ll be so pleased’.’’
Walter wants to ace level 3 NCEA so he can enter university with that famous smile next year.
Year 13 was tough, but he would manage, he said.
He hoped to go to Vic on crutches and one day, maybe, not need them at all.
‘‘I want to be able to look people in the eyes instead of looking up at them from my wheelchair.
‘‘I would love people to see how tall I am.’’
Working hard: Cityfitness Porirua personal trainer Chris McManus with his star pupil, Walter Pokoati.