30 Days of MD: Working at the Y Has Been Incredibly Rewarding

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by BNS Staff |

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Photo courtesy of Connor Shanta

Day 19 of 30

This is Connor Shanta’s (@bigmanshanta) story:

I live with facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD). This disease affects the strength of all my muscles but specifically the face, scapular, and arms. I use a power wheelchair to get around. I am 6’8” so my height and long legs also add additional struggles.

I work for the New River YMCA in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Vocational rehabilitation helped me secure an interview.

My first position at the New River Y was working the front desk answering phones and working with members. Because of my height, my knees and wheelchair control do not fit under the front desk. This makes it difficult sometimes to maneuver and perform my duties. To help me with my job responsibilities, a wireless headset and keyboard were provided. The wireless technology allows me to talk on the phone hands-free and to use the keyboard on my lap, easing my typing.

When COVID-19 hit and closed schools, we transitioned to a remote learning site for elementary and middle school students doing virtual schooling. I helped students with their computers and helped them with assignments.

Kids are very curious and most have never seen someone in a power wheelchair, so in the first couple weeks as they got more comfortable to approach, the kids asked lots of questions. Most were innocent: “what is this thing, and why are you in it” but some questions hit a little harder, such as “why are your hands like that” or “why do you smile weird?” I remind myself that they are children and don’t know any better. I try my best to explain so they can understand how they can approach someone in a wheelchair respectfully in the future.

This past summer, I worked as the lead counselor at a summer campsite. This was definitely the most physically challenging job since working at the Y. The other camp counselors aided in setting up our stations. Hands-on crafts were very difficult at times. Because of my lack of dexterity, it was a challenge to make examples for the campers.

Although there are physical challenges associated with FSHD, working has been incredibly rewarding for me.

Muscular Dystrophy News’ 30 Days of MD campaign will publish one story per day for MD Awareness Month in September. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more stories like this, using the hashtag #30DaysofMD, or read the full series.