Abigail Joan West
Abigail West is a nosey-body. That is the reason, it is believed, that this 11yr. old came into this world inexplicably three months earlier than her proposed due date of December 9th, 2001. She was just so curious and impatient to know what was going on. And she’s been that way ever since.
Abigail is the youngest of three. Her older brother was born one day before his due date, and her older sister was born exactly on hers. To say Abigail’s unexpected early arrival on September 17, 2001, was, well, very unexpected is an understatement. Without probable cause that doctors could find, nor explain, her mother had an early rupture 26 weeks into her pregnancy leaving Abigail literally stuck in a breech position with limited amniotic fluid. Mrs. West was rushed to the hospital and remained on bed rest there until Abigail’s premature birth at 28 weeks gestation. Abigail was born breech with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. It is believed that this crucial lack of oxygen consequently caused Abigail’s diagnosis of spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy and neurological visual impairment. The fact that Abigail is a very bright, outgoing, witty, compassionate, chatty, and exhaustibly curious and determined child is miraculous to her family in spite of her traumatic entrance into the world.
With her plucky and tenacious spirit, Abigail has made great strides beyond expectations and limitations despite being challenged with the inability to walk, stand, crawl, sit on her own, or even hold her head up without assistance of another person or piece of assistive technology and/or equipment. Due to the severity of her cerebral palsy she utilizes a manual and a power wheelchair for mobility. She is also unable to hold writing or eating utensils due to low fine motor ability. Abigail also has CVI, or Cortical Visual Impairment, and nystagmus. She is highly nearsighted (myopic) and is considered to be legally blind. She has had muscle tightening surgery in both of her eyes as a toddler to correct strabismus. But in spite of these limitations and challenges, Abigail possesses a beautiful mind...and the ability to speak. And she expresses herself verbally a whole lot, earning herself a reputation for being a “Chatty Cathy” or “old wash woman” as her mom affectionately calls her. Abigail loves to ask millions of questions and keep track of everyone else’s business. She absolutely loves to gossip. But, she is also a deep thinker, oftentimes discussing the mysteries of life and human behavior, and she has an empathic soul too, worrying and stressing over family, friends, and even acquaintances. She has a wickedly accurate memory which has earned her another nick-name, “The Secretary”, from her mother. This all surprises people who do not know her well because upon first meeting Abigail she comes across as quiet and shy, but one should not underestimate her. There is a lot depth behind her hazel eyes!
Abigail is mainstreamed in her sending school district and works extremely hard to keep up with her typical peers. She participates and enjoys many activities such as Challenger Baseball, acting, bowling, dancing, arts & crafts, chorus, and the sports program in her town for children with special needs. She also loves to shop, go to movies, eat out with family and friends, and visit the Jersey shore, Ocean City specifically, where her grandparents own a home. But what Abigail really enjoys the most is participating in the Little Rock Foundation’s Camp Little Rock summer program in Medford for the last three years.
When asked about her feelings towards Camp Little Rock Abigail gives a huge grin and says “I love it!” She says Ms. Tina and Ms. Debbie make every day at camp fun and that her camp counselors were so helpful and caring. At camp, she states, she is treated like a regular kid and not like a baby, and that is extremely important to Abigail. Her parents are very grateful that the program accepted Abigail, a young lady with significant physical challenges. It was difficult for the Wests to find a local day camp and one that was welcoming of Abigail’s special needs. They found many camps that catered to children with special needs to be very far and expensive, or had long waiting lists. Some require a parent to hire their own one-on-one aide or nurse to accompany their camper which adds immensely to the expense of a summer camp program if not covered by insurance. Mrs. West also felt uncomfortable with overnight camps that were a great distance away. She wanted to be able to get to know camp staff and receive daily updates on how her daughter’s day went. With Camp Little Rock she never feels the need to worry and truly appreciates the way parents and their campers are made to feel like family.
When asked about what she likes about Camp Little Rock, Abigail lists some of their most memorable activities that stand out in her mind. “I have fun meeting new friends,” She says. And she enjoys the different daily activities such as crazy dress up day and crazy hat day where campers who stand out can win a prize. She loves when the karate instructor comes for a visit “because he is so fun and makes everyone laugh.” The hay ride and dance party, as well as the talent show, are big favorites too. Last summer she experienced a fun canoe ride and her very first camp sleepover. Her best experience yet, however, is having her body free from the confines of her wheelchair in the camp’s flying squirrel zip-line. She said at first she was nervous because she had never been on one before but then exhilaration took over when “my body relaxed and I felt like I was flying.”
The last day of camp is always the hardest for Abigail who bonds easily with her counselors and camp friends. It makes her sad that she has to wait a whole year to experience all the joy Camp Little Rock has to offer. Her last day good-byes are known for being very tearful. For Abigail, that one week of camp is truly, truly special and magical.