Student with CP triumphs

Monday, June 7, 2004

PORTAGEVILLE -- It's hard not to get motivated when it comes to Brian Taylor.

Although the 21-year-old from Portageville was stricken with cerebral palsy as a child, he has never considered his condition a barrier, especially when it comes to getting what he wants.

He doesn't even consider it a disability and never has," said his grandmother, Marie Thompson of Portageville. "He's never let it get in his way -- and his parents and grandparents haven't either."

She continued: "If he can do something we let him do it. We don't try to hold him back."

Taylor has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, which means all four of his limbs have stiff and jerky movements.

Last week, Taylor began a summer internship at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., through a fellowship from the American Association of Physicists in Medicine for which Taylor was one of 10 students picked from approximately 60 applicants nationwide. He will work under medical physicists.

But Taylor's summer work doesn't end there. He is also interning as a pediatric oncology educational student at St. Jude. Thirty students were chosen from the nation to participate in the hospital's program to study radiation oncology.

St. Jude isn't new to Taylor since he interned at the hospital for a similar program last year.

"It's a great place and a great hospital," Taylor said about St. Jude.

Currently Taylor is majoring in math and minoring in physics at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., where he expects to graduate next May.

"Of course I've got a physical disability," admitted the 2001 salutatorian of Portageville High School. "But I've always been good in math and physics, and after high school, I just thought I'd go ahead and go to college and get any degree."

Not one to brag on himself, Taylor credits all of his success to his faith and God. His positive attitude on life is due to his strong faith, he said.

"I'm a Christian, and I always thought God had a purpose (for me having cerebral palsy) and I understand now why that was," Taylor said, adding that he's interested in working in medical physics, specifically the branch of radiology that plans radiation treatments.

Even early on in his diagnosis Taylor was positive and admits he had a normal life with lots of support.

"I went to Portageville elementary and everyone who knew me knew I had CP. A lot of my classmates kind of protected me and were really understanding," Taylor recalled.

When he was 3, Taylor began receiving therapy from the Kenny Rogers Children's Center in Sikeston.

"Basically they just worked with me for 12 years helping me with my motor skills, occupational therapy and physical therapy," Taylor recalled.

Brenda Harper, physical therapy assistant at KRCC, worked with Taylor throughout the 15 years he attended the center.

"He's an intelligent young man. I'm sure he's an inspiration at St. Jude or wherever he goes," Harper said.

Taylor is very kind and hardworking, Harper said, adding he's also one of the sweetest young men she's ever had the privilege of working with at the center.

"If anybody deserves it, he does," Harper commented. "He'll give 100 percent at whatever he does -- and it will be awesome."

Taylor admitted starting college was a little tough because he didn't know anyone, but using his optimism, Taylor triumphed once again.

"The key is being active," Taylor said. "I'm in a few clubs and I'm a resident advisor. Basically, I'm staying very busy -- either in my classes or hanging out with my friends."

His cerebral palsy does make him tire more easily, but Taylor said he is able to do things.

"I can't stay up until 2 a.m. I'm usually in bed by 10 or 11 p.m.," he said.

Following his college graduation, Taylor hopes to attend Vanderbilt University, where he has applied for graduate school.

And when it comes to overcoming obstacles and achieving goals, Taylor advised to be patient.

"Patience is the key," Taylor said. "Look at how the opportunity has been given to you. Just be patient and see what comes up."

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