Spina bifida a challenge, not a roadblock

Published: July 2, 2010  |  Source: post-trib.com  | Spinal Cord Injury:
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Kim Sloop of Michigan City, a May graduate of Purdue University North Central, is ready to use her bachelor’s degree in behavioral sciences in a career working with children with disabilities and their parents.

She’s been an advocate for people with spinal cord disabilities and injuries as a member of the Northwest Indiana Spinal Cord Injury Group. She’s visited Washington, D.C., to speak with Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and U.S. Rep. Peter Visclosky, D-Merrillville, about the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act, which has been signed into law.

Sloop speaks from firsthand knowledge. She was born with spina bifida and uses a wheelchair to get around.

“I have spina bifida, but spina bifida doesn’t have me,” Sloop said. “I’m not going to let it hold me back from anything. I have a younger sister, and my parents did not treat me any differently.”

Because she is used to having her independence, Sloop said she was pleased with the accessibility of the PNC campus. And help was available when needed.

“I also have a learning disability, so the academic part of college was stressful for me, but my professors were more than willing to help me,” Sloop said. “I can’t drive, and I am grateful for my friends who stepped up to give me rides.”

Her hard work in and out of the classroom paid off. Sloop’s grades placed her on the semester honors list, and she earned academic achievement honors through PNC Student Support Services. She also earned the Student Support Services Student Leader Award and its Above and Beyond Award.

Last summer, Sloop served an internship at Saint Anthony Memorial Health Centers in Michigan City and had the chance to shadow social workers there. She also spent time in other departments to get a feel for other health-care careers.

Sloop wouldn’t mind returning to Saint Anthony, but she has thought seriously about other career options.

“I plan on moving to Chicago and living in an apartment complex I found that is built specifically for young adults with spina bifida,” she said. “I do want to go to the Jane Addams College of Social Work for my master’s degree.”

Sloop said she would like to complete her master’s internships at Children’s Memorial Hospital and the Shriners Hospitals for Children. She was a patient at both until age 18 and said this is an ideal chance to give something back to the medical professionals who helped her.

“My goal is to get a job at Shriners,” Sloop said, explaining how her life experiences allow her to understand what patients feel physically and emotionally.

Her advice for students wondering if they should go to college and if they’ll succeed is simple: “Give it a chance; you won’t be disappointed. Your toughest years are your freshman and sophomore years. After that, it gets fun. Don’t give up; PNC is a great place. The professors are more than willing to help.”

BY CAROL CONNELLY
Carol Connelly is director of media and communication services at Purdue University North Central. (800) 872-1231, Ext. 5267