“I want to do that.”
These five words began the adventure of a lifetime for Waxahachie resident Abel Rose and his family in 2012. Heather Gwin-Rose — surely restraining her tears of joy — looked down to her 1-and-a-half-year-old son who sat in his comfortable, homemade wheelchair.
“OK! Go ahead,” she burst aloud.
Go ahead to what? Go ahead where? What was little Abel talking about? As surely as Abel had to use a wheelchair because of his unusual case of Spina Bifida, so has he participated in the following sports: Soccer, volleyball, table tennis, WCMX, golf, baseball, and just because Abel is able, dirt biking.
You didn’t misread that — dirt biking.
Able has been recognized as the youngest sponsored athlete who uses a wheel chair, and today, Abel has traveled with his parents and 8-year-old sister Ella to California and Oklahoma multiple times for competitions in a variety of events.
Heather knew about Abel’s condition prior to giving birth. She had volunteered to be a “test” patient for some local medical students when a young student noticed something abnormal in little Abel’s body. Upon the discovery, Heather was sent to a specialist to be seen so that she could have a diagnosis that was reliable. After many tests that came back positive, Abel was diagnosed with Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus, which causes an excess of water in the head. When doctors recommended an abortion, she knew that was not ever going to be an option.
Spina Bifida is a birth defect that occurs when the back bone has an incomplete closing of the vertebrae. Some call it a “snowflake” disorder because no two persons’ symptoms are exactly alike, Heather said.
In Abel’s case, his lower limbs are non-operational. Does this affect the quality of life? Well, if you ever get a chance to meet this young athlete, you will see clearly that the now 4-year-old’s quality of life is much greater than the average person.
Because of Abel’s unique condition at such a young age, others who observe his independence often release an audible Wow! His personality is both cordial and spunky which makes for an incredibly delightful introduction.
“People will ask questions” said Heather. “And that’s what we want people to do. A lot of parents will find it offensive, but able-bodied people don’t always know how to ask what’s going on with your kid.”
When she’s asked if she ever finds the questioning of others offensive, she tells them with an emphatic no and commends the inquirer for their spoken curiosity, “Good job, people!”
The goal for this action-packed family is to raise awareness that quality of life is not contingent upon physical abilities. The Rose family asserts: It is not abilities that define people, but choices. Multitudes of other people who also have disabilities need to know that depression is not their only option. They can choose to have life. This is the choice Abel has been making for years now, they said.
He proudly displays his medals and trophies around the house and appreciates such radical support from his family and friends. Some parents will not let their children ride a dirt bike because of the fear of crashing and becoming paralyzed, but Abel enjoys riding a dirt bike in spite of being paralyzed.
To be sure, this achievement has come at no small price. Abel valiantly acquired a goose egg on one occasion because of his adventures, but he was quick to assure others he did not cry. For Abel and his family, fear is no reason to discontinue active living. Active living is a lifestyle for the Rose family.
At only 5 months of age, Abel acquired his first wheelchair from his father Brian Rose. With fantastic craftsmanship, Brian built Abel’s first wheelchair with supplies from Home Depot, Wal-Mart and Amazon.com. By 9 months of age, Abel was more independent than anyone expected. Abel began developing the motor skills that have served him well to this day.
While many pets roam the Rose family’s property (longhorns, buffalo, birds, cats and dogs), Abel’s favorite puppy goes by the name of Conor McGregor — his service dog in training. Abel is amazingly independent (in some ways, more than a few able-bodied peers of his), and Connor McGregor is learning to help Abel become even more so. Conor McGregor is learning to serve Abel in a number of helpful ways such as turning on lights and opening doors.
Often, others can behave as if to lose a limb or ability would be a tragedy that destroys the quality of life. To this way of thinking, Michelle responds with confidence and a smile, “That is not the case.”
To learn more about how Abel is able, find his fan page on Facebook.com by looking up “I Am Abel” or simply visit AbelRose.net!