Wal­ter’s an in­spi­ra­tion

Cere­bral palsy no bar to uni

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE - By KRIS DANDO

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.’’

Photo: KRIS DANDO

Work­ing hard: Ci­tyfit­ness Porirua per­sonal trainer Chris McManus with his star pupil, Wal­ter Pokoati.

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