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My story, Chapter 1

September 10, 2006

Everyone has a story. Some stories are just days or even hours long. Some stories span years and even decades. My story is 26 years long. But, in those 26 years, I’ve lived more than some have in twice as long. Life. Death. Joy. Sorrow. Comedy. Drama. Im my life, I’ve seen it all.

Everyone has a story. Here is mine.

I was born at a young age, literally. In May, 1979, just days before her 43rd birthday, my mom fell ill and went to the hospital. Upon her arrival, the doctors ran a litany of tests, including a pregnancy test because, believe it or not, she was still of child-bearing age. All of her tests results came back normal, except for one: the pregnancy test. SHE WAS FIVE MONTHS PREGNANT! AT AGE 43! The doctors immediately admitted her and began giving her the prenatal care she had missed.

For about two months, the doctors monitored and treated her. On the morning of November 21, as the doctors were checking her vitals, the baby’s heart stopped for about 2-3 seconds. Astonished, all they could do was watch as it started again, and moments later stopped for a second time. She was rushed to surgery and at 12:22 p.m., Mary Ann Parks entered the world by emergency C-section, weighing in at 4lbs.

Because of the lack of oxygen to my brain when my heart stopped, the lack of early prenatal care, and my mom’s advanced age (not to mention her 2-pack-a-day Pall Mall habit), the doctor’s gave my mom a prognosis that did not bode well for me. I would not be “normal.” (Some of my friends would say that the doctor’s were right. . .) But, much to the doctor’s surprise, I was ready to go home, and not to an institution as the doctor’s expected, after only a week.

My mom and grandmom (my “Nanny”) brought me home to a little house in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia. They watched as I grew and developed from an infant into a toddler and then into a child. As I grew, they saw that, not only were the doctor’s wrong about my prognosis, for by the time I was three, I had already seen two more birthdays than I was supposed to, but I exceeded even the expectations placed on children born under “normal” circumstances. Instead of being at least two months behind where I should have been, I was routinely 2-3 months AHEAD of the usual milestones. I was talking coherently ahead of schedule, walking months before other toddlers my age, and reading by the time I was two. At three years old, I was where most kids wouldn’t be until they were five.

One incident in particular stands out in my memory. I was four years old, and we had just moved to a new neighborhood a few months prior. I went with my mom to the corner store, and as she was paying for her purchases, she asked me to get her a newspaper from the rack. As I did, I started to read the front page out loud. Everyone in the store, including my mom, looked at me with astonishment and amazement in their eyes.

That day, my mom took me to my neighborhood school to enroll in kindergarten. The school was hesitant at first to enroll me, because I did not meet the minimum age requirement. However, once I demonstrated the skills I already had, by reading the signs all around the kindergarten classroom and the flyer listing all of the admission requirements, they signed me up on the spot.

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