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Chuck and Drew Graham on Their Mom's 'Can-Do' Attitude

Chuck Graham, left, is wearing a gray and white thiny striped long-sleeved shirt and sits in a manual wheelchair. His brother Drew, right, is wearing a black T-shirt and sits in a bright blue power scooter.

Chuck and Drew Graham's mother served as their role model growing up in Louisiana, Missouri. She helped them face the road ahead after they became paraplegic and quadriplegic within a year and a half of each other in their teenage years.

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org

Chuck Graham: There are two fortunate things about Mom. One, she was a nurse, so that helped with us being able to get home and start to rehabilitate as soon as we could, and the second was that she had a disability. She had muscular dystrophy, and we never really thought of her as being disabled. She just couldn't run like the rest of the moms, so, if you did something bad, she couldn't run and whoop ya, but you were gonna get it when she found you.

But, you know, she was just a mom like anybody else - a small businesswoman, and she never let her disability stop her. So, in a way, we were much more fortunate than most people that this happens to, because we had a built-in role model for how to handle a disability right there in our own home.

Drew Graham: And I think the only way I I really saw it affect Mom was she had a harder time walking than a lot of people, and a lot of people used to mistake her walking for thinking she was inebriated, which she didn't drink that much, but that comes back to the part of how you have to educate people about different things. We had to educate our teachers and our classmates about why our mom walked that way.

Chuck Graham: Oh, and she never really complained about her disability. She never really looked at herself as having a disability. She was the oldest of nine kids. Three of her five brothers and one of her two sisters have muscular dystrophy as well, and she just always kept her grace, class and dignity and just forged ahead no matter how tough things were.

So we didn't really have a lot time to feel sorry for ourselves - when you have somebody that leads by example, and that person's there helping you.

Drew Graham: And I don't think she would let us sit around and feel sorry for ourselves. She always had that can-do attitude about her and never took a lot of crap off people. I'd say she was probably the most positive role model, if you're going to be in that situation, that you could have.

I think my favorite story was, to show how she didn't let things get in our way, is I had a girl upstairs one time, and I didn't realize that while we were in the other room, mom had snuck up the stairs, and when I walked out my door, she was waiting for me, and I definitely found out that she could slap pretty good for a mom.

Rebecca Smith is an award-winning reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth Desk. Born and raised outside of Rolla, Missouri, she has a passion for diving into often overlooked issues that affect the rural populations of her state – especially stories that broaden people’s perception of “rural” life.