Cerebral Palsy won’t slow down Somerset sophomore Carrie KulibertCerebral Palsy can’t slow down Carrie Kulibert.
By: Dave Newman, New Richmond News
Cerebral Palsy can’t slow down Carrie Kulibert.
In fact, the Somerset High School sophomore isn’t backing down one bit from the physical limitations that Cerebral Palsy presents.
Cerebral Palsy is caused by injuries or abnormalities of the brain. Kulibert suffered a stroke hours after she was born. She spent the first six days of her life in neo-natal intensive care. At four months, she was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy.
The stroke left her with limited strength and muscle control on the right side of her body. Outwardly, Kulibert appears to be an average teenager. She’s a talented student and she’s an outgoing, often outspoken young lady. In addition to cross country, she’s involved in soccer, forensics and mock trial.
The Cerebral Palsy has the most effect on her right hand. She has limited fine motor skills in the hand. She is unable to do some things people take for granted, like typing, cutting up food, or trimming her own fingernails.
While she is an independent spirit, she said she can never be completely independent because she must rely on other people to do some basic things for her. She said her friends have been wonderful in helping her.
She has learned to type one-handed, through a specialized program taught to her in her middle school keyboarding class. She uses the keys in the center of the keyboard as her home row. She said that when she’s in college, she plans to get a voice-activated computer so she’ll be able to speak into the computer to write her papers, instead of trying to type them.
Through the first eight years of her life, Kulibert underwent intense physical therapy and she continues to receive therapy to maintain and build her strength and flexibility.
Cross country has been an opportunity for Kulibert to push through the physical limitations. She began running in seventh grade. A major challenge for Kulibert came when she moved up to the high school cross country program. She told Coach Diane Belter that she didn’t want any pity and that she wanted to be pushed to see how far she could advance her physical skills.
At the start of her freshman year, Kulibert was generally at the back of the pack among the Spartan junior varsity runners. Belter relentlessly worked with Kulibert to improve her running form and maintain the correct angle to carry her arms. The lack of strength on her right side caused her arms to not stay in synch with the rest of her body as she ran.
Kulibert said as a freshman, she wasn’t mentally ready to accept all the running concepts Belter was sending her way.
This year she started the season as one of the varsity runners and she was ready for all the coaching Belter could give her. By the end of the season, Kulibert had moved up to be the Spartans’ third varsity runner, placing 45th overall in the Middle Border Conference meet.
Staying at peak form physically is a constant challenge for Kulibert. She said if she takes any time away from a physical activity, her muscle memory disappears quickly.
“It’s a constant. My disability is like that. If you want to keep your progress, you have to keep working at it,” she said. “It’s a mindset you have to put yourself in.”
Another significant step in Kulibert’s achievements as a teenager was passing her driver’s license test last week. Retired Somerset athletic director Brad Nemec was her driver’s instructor. He was blunt with her, just as she’d hoped, telling her that she must keep both hands on the steering wheel at all times when she is driving.
The most challenging part of learning to drive was using her right foot to control the pedals. The stroke affected the muscle control in her foot and leg, so she must concentrate on how much pressure she is placing on each pedal. While this becomes automatic for most drivers, Kulibert said she will always have to be conscious to measure the amount of pressure she places on the brake or gas pedal.
With all of the medical involvement she’s had in her life, Kulibert said she might like to go into the medical field as a career.
“Bio-medical engineering sounds fun. There are so many science fields I could go into,” she said, though she added that she’s also considered law school and journalism.
Her parents are Liana and Jeff Kulibert. They are both involved in careers in which Kulibert has interest. Her father is an engineer and her mother is a medical lab technician.
Her experience with the medical field has led her to have strong opinions on many issues regarding the medical world. As a freshman, she advanced to state in forensics. Her speech topic was stem cell research.
Somerset forensics instructor Jeanne Germain said Kulibert was so intent on becoming a forensics member, she sought out Germain before she began recruiting for the team. Germain said Kulibert could have taken the easy route, but instead she involved her own plight into the speech.
“She laid it all on the table,” Germain said. “She had the initiative and skill to put together this passionate, persuasive piece.”
Her highly persuasive speech enlightened people about those who have a similar plight to Kulibert. Her speech was so stirring, that she was one of the few forensics performers who earned a gold medal as a freshman.
“People have dreams, to play piano or to walk again,” she said about the many people who could benefit from stem cell research. “They don’t want your pity. They want your support.”