August 1st, 2012
Isac Huddleston, 18, accomplished something recently that he and his family never thought possible: He walked to receive his high school diploma.
Huddleston has lived with spastic cerebral palsy his whole life. As long as he can remember, he’s walked with crutches and worn casts. Doctors told him he probably would never walk on his own, he said.
But with physical therapy, surgery and support, he handed his crutches to his friends, bound and determined to walk without them for such a monumental occasion.
“My friends told me to do my pimp walk and get my diploma,” he said, laughing.
His mother, Barbara Huddleston, cried while watching him from the stands at Rodriguez High School.
“It wasn’t the fact that he got his diploma,” she said. “It was the fact that he was walking.”
The Huddlestons said he would never have made such progress without the help and support of the local Montezuma Shriners and the Sacramento Shriners Hospital for Children.
Isac Huddleston was born prematurely, and at 3 pounds, 6 ounces, fit in the palm of his mother’s hand. As he grew up, Barbara Huddleston noticed he wasn’t developing normally.
“He didn’t sit up. . . . He’d cruise along the wall,” she said. “We really became concerned.”
His mother took him to the doctor to get diagnosed, but initially, they were left with few answers. When she finally received the news he had cerebral palsy, she was devastated.
“It was almost better not knowing,” she said.
Barbara Huddleston and her husband both had jobs and health insurance, but faced looming health care costs and struggled transporting their son to and from Sacramento for surgery.
That’s when Isac Huddleston’s grandfather, James Huddleston, directed them to the local Montezuma Shriners and the Shriners Hospital in Sacramento.
James Huddleston, a Shriner master himself, suggested they seek help through sponsors at the Montezuma Shriners.
Barbara Huddleston never thought that the group would sponsor her son because they had health insurance. To her surprise, they not only sponsored her son with free transportation to and from the hospital, but they significantly helped with the medical costs as well.
Ken Wright, ambassador and past president of the Montezuma Shriners, said that their organization is made up of dedicated volunteers. The Shriners, he said, don’t turn any child away, whether they have health insurance or not.
“Shriner loves taking care of kids,” he said. “We don’t want to see kids in wheelchairs and crutches if they can be helped.”
The enormous financial support from the Shriners was matched at the Shriner Children’s Hospital with personal and thorough treatment by its medical staff, Barbara Huddleston said.
Growing with cerebral palsy was difficult for Isac Huddleston, but he said he had some great experiences through the care he received at the Shriners hospital.
“There’s an uplifting spirit there,” Barbara Huddleston said. “They’re focused on making a good experience.”
One of Isac Huddleston’s favorite memories at the hospital was the East-West Shrine football game, where he hung out and played wheelchair sports with NFL players such as Jerry Rice.
Isac Huddleston proudly displays his Shrine Game memorabilia, including a football signed by former 49ers quarterback Ken Dorsey, in a case in his room.
His family has seen his condition improve by leaps and bounds over the years. Part of that improvement is thanks to the Shriners hospital, Barbara Huddleston said, and the other came from her son’s attitude.
“When I was younger kids asked ‘What’s wrong with you?,’ ” he said. “I said ‘There’s nothing wrong with me, I have cerebral palsy.’ ”
His mother said, “Rather than hide it, it’s been an educational experience for him.”
Isac Huddleston will head to University of Reno Nevada in the fall, where he will study environmental science. He said he would like to work with people with prosthetics and believes his experiences will allow him to help others.
As he heads to college, his mother said she is in of awe how far he’s come.
“Doctors had not expected his improvement to be as succesful as it was,” she said.
Without the support from the Montezuma Shriners, she said, she doesn’t believe it would have been possible.
“The Shriner support has come full circle,” she said. “We never know where he’ll go in life. That’s why we want to say thank you.”