September 5, 2010
Dawn Allenbach has spinal muscular Athrophy, a form of MD and has been in a wheelchair since she was four. You might think with all that’s going against her, that this might be some teary little story. If you think that, you don't know Dawn and you don't know her family. Their story tells us nothing is impossible in a loving family that they considered absolutely normal.
"I'm currently 39 years old. When I was diagnosed, the doctors told my parents not to expect me or my siblings to live past 20 or 21," Dawn said.
"The doctors can sit around and tell you this and tell you that and tell you that your kids are never going to live past 19. Then the kids live up to their late 20's and early '30's and late 30's. So you just go with God, that's the only thing I can say," Mike Allenbach (Dawn’s father) said.
I first met the them in a small mobile home nearly 30 years ago. All three of their children had MD. Dawn, Stacie and Paul were all in wheelchairs. Today Dawn is the only surviving sibling. Her sister Stacie died at 27, her brother Paul at 30. Both had advanced college degrees and lived a decade longer than doctors thought.
In June, Dawn was severely injured and suffered a major setback when her van was hit by another car; she is currently recovering at Deseret Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in Wichita.
But for her parents, particularly since Dawn's accident, it is normal to question.
"They always say God isn't going to give you a burden that is too hard to bear. Sometimes you kind of wish God would go pick on someone else for awhile," Mike said.
In rehabilitation day by day, Dawn continues to defy the odds as she pursues a doctorate degree in Biology. But don't tell her she is an inspiration.
"Because I'm living my life the way anybody else would live it. I just sit down most of the time," Dawn said. "You don't have to treat people with disabilities differently. Yes, we do need some help in certain areas of personal care but the brain still functions. We have the same emotions, the same desires, as someone who is not disabled."
"Mom used to get so irritated at me, in fact, her mother used to also. They would tell us you are too tough on the kids, you are too mean to the kids. I would tell them, no, we're not mean, we're strict," Mike said.
"My parents refused to treat us as though something was wrong with us, as though something was broken," Dawn said.
"The worst punishment they told us later we could give them was to take away their library privileges or their radio," Cindy Allenbach (Dawn’s mother) said. "We had chores when we were younger and we got punished if we did something wrong."
"We just taught the kids to be tough," Mike said.
"My dad told us at a young age, that all three of us would go to college. There was no discussion," Dawn said.
"People always ask us how did you raise three kids in wheelchairs? Well, for us, that is normal," Cindy said.
"If you want to sit around and feel sorry for yourself, then that is your decision. I feel like it is a waste of energy because there are so many things in life to enjoy. I can't remember anytime where I've set around and thought woe is me, I can't walk so my life sucks. My life doesn't suck," Dawn said.