October is Spina Bifida Awareness Month, which was created to bring public attention to the condition, how it affects those living with it (as well as their families), possible causes, potential treatments, and resources for support and education.
Spina Bifida is one of the most common birth defects in the world, and this occurs when the neural tube doesn’t fully develop or close properly while still in the womb. Spina Bifida has a variety of effects, ranging from a birthmark all the way to paralysis, depending on how mild or severe the condition is. Other symptoms may include:
- Difficulty walking or total inability to walk
- Little to no feeling in extremities/limbs, particularly legs and feet
- Bladder and bowel issues, particularly retention or incontinence
Doctors aren’t sure what exactly causes Spina Bifida, but they believe that it could be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Treatment varies with the severity of the condition. In cases of meningocele and myelomeningocele, surgery is required. A child affected by Spina Bifida may require ongoing care, and they may need to use intermittent catheters as well in order to manage bladder issues.
Celebrating Those Who Live With Spina Bifida
Spina Bifida doesn’t have to mean a child will not be able to achieve great things and go on to live a full life. Six-time Chicago marathon champion and Paralympic track athlete Tatyana McFadden who lives with Spina Bifida was recently featured on Ellen (Ellen DeGeneres’ television show), where she discussed some of her struggles. Tatyana grew up in an orphanage in Russia. Because of her condition, which left her paralyzed from the waist down, she was often passed over by potential adoptive families.
Finally, at the age of six, she was adopted and moved to Maryland with her new family. Her adoptive parents encouraged her to get into sports and more physical activity to stay healthy, and she said this is what changed her life.
Today, with hard work, determination, and a positive outlook, Tatyana has become the fastest wheelchair racer of all time, and she has earned seven gold medals. In addition to that, she has won all four major marathons for wheelchair racing — the Boston, Chicago, London, and New York marathons. No racer has ever achieved this before. She has even met the President and First Lady of the United States.
Tatyana has proven that it is possible to achieve amazing things, despite the odds, and one can live a healthy, accomplished life with Spina Bifida. Her story can bring awareness about this condition as well as hope to others who live with this condition.
Learn more about Spina Bifida and October as SB Awareness Month by visiting the Spina Bifida Association website.