Sunday, May 30, 2010

64: The Self Empowered Woman: Dayniah Manderson

Dear Followers,

As the wonderful readers of this blog know, one of my objectives is to introduce them to a wide variety of amazing women. I'm always on the lookout for women from different backgrounds , with unique stories, and inspiring qualities.

2010 is my 20th year as a wheelchair-dependent person, so Dayniah Manderson's story affected me in a special way. I think you'll also be amazed by her story...
Dayniah, who is 30 years old, profoundly disabled, and dependent on home aides as well as her $35,000 motorized wheelchair, is a much-admired English teacher at the Urban Assembly Academy of Civic Engagement, a Bronx middle school. For most of her life she has been told that she couldn't do what she wanted to (13: More Than Meets the Eye), but that has never stopped her.

Dayniah was born in Jamaica, at the age of two was diagnosed by doctors at a Kingston clinic with Muscular Dystrophy. Her mother, Millie Williams, was told to "prepare a coffin," but instead chose to treat her daughter like any other little girl. When she was 15, a local doctor offered to treat her "evil spirits," and that's when Millie decided to bring her daughter to the United States.

Dayniah has Muscular Atrophy Type II. which occurs in one of every 6,000 children; they usually do not live beyond 30. Motor control diminishes, muscles weaken, movement is impaired, spines twist, and as the ribs become pressed breathing becomes ever more difficult. Fortunately, Dayniah and her mother met Doctor Roberta Shapiro at Jacobi Medical Center (4: Supportive Someone), who has become a confidant and a supporter.

Even though she was living in the projects as a disabled teenager in a wheelchair, Dayniah attended Theodore Roosevelt High School near the Botanical Gardens in the Bronx, and graduated sixth out of a class of 400 (10: The Critic Within). With the help of an overnight aide she lived in the dormitories at NYU, and even earned a Master's Degree.

Dayniah had been molested by a family member as a child in Jamaica, had an abortion when she was 16, and in 2004 married (now imprisoned) Ghandi Jackson, whom she'd met in Jamaica before his divorce (15: Forget About Prince Charming).

Against medical advice, Dayniah gave birth to a healthy baby girl named Akasha in November 2005, and three years later chose an extremely risky surgery with the hopes of extending her lifespan. Before the operation, she wrote a letter to her then two year old daughter: "I'm am going through this surgery only to have the opportunity to see you grow that you are here, it is a life worth preserving." (16: Intensive Motherhood).

Hope you are as inspired by Dayniah's story as I am.

Looking forward to your comments...