From day one, Abigail Morrison wasn’t supposed to make it. Minutes after birth she was rushed to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville via LifeFlight helicopter. In 24 years, her complications from cerebral palsy haven’t changed much.
Neither has Morrison.
She is a fighter. She is persistent. She is driven to succeed. And this Berwick native and 2014 Bloomsburg University graduate is an inspiration.
Graduation is traditionally an emotional event covering the gamut of somber reflection to joyous celebration. Then this spring, Morrison left her wheelchair to accept her diploma and made it epic.
“That for me was a lifelong dream,” says Morrison, who was told by doctors in 2006 she would never walk again. “I had surgery right before I graduated high school. I was supposed to walk at my high school graduation, and it didn’t happen due to complications from the surgery. To have this happen five years and 26 surgeries later is absolutely just a blessing and a dream.”
Morrison’s contagious spirit wasn’t limited to the commencement stage in May. For the past five years she was among the friendliest, most visible students on campus; rarely could she go from building to building or cross the Academic Quad without an impromptu greeting or quick chat. Amid it all she not only overcame the typical challenges college students face with the transition from high school — and the additional challenges faced as a commuter who changed majors —she persevered with moderate cerebral palsy.
Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that can impair brain and nervous system functions, such as movement, learning, hearing, seeing and thinking. With moderate cerebral palsy, Morrison requires braces to walk, medications and adaptive technology to accomplish daily activities.
While overcoming navigational challenges with her wheelchair, Morrison faced other hurdles during her years on campus, including changes in medication, painful tremors and several surgeries.
“Society often puts a label on those of us with disabilities,” Morrison says, “as in we can’t do things the way other people do. We do. We just do it in a different way. Every complication I could possibly face, I faced. And I did so surrounded by a wonderful faculty, a wonderful support system and a wonderful network of friends.”
Morrison earned a bachelor’s degree in communication studies, graduating in the top 10 percent of her class in the College of Liberal Arts. She finished with a 3.59 grade point average and is now pursuing a master’s degree in communication arts with an emphasis in health communications at Marywood University.
“When I came to Bloomsburg, I became the person I am today,” Morrison says. “I came out of my shell and found my niche. I got more confident. I felt like I was at home. I felt cared for. I felt appreciated.
“People here are different in a very special way. We appreciate the gifts we all possess. We’re a community. That right there … I’m going to miss the most.” •
Jaime North is marketing specialist/web editor at Bloomsburg University.
Disability Advisory Committee
Better signs marking accessible entrances to buildings was the first accomplishment of a new committee that is helping to improve campus accessibility and the overall university experience for all students.
The Disability Advisory Committee, made up of students, faculty and staff and sponsored by the Office of Accommodative Services for Students with Disabilities, is involved in several initiatives. These include revamping the university’s Americans with Disabilities Act policy and designing a more detailed and user-friendly campus accessibility map. A quarterly newsletter will keep the campus community informed of upcoming events, programs and proposals.
The committee is sponsoring a talk on Oct. 15 by Iraq War veteran Bryan Anderson. A Purple Heart recipient and one of the few triple amputees to survive his injuries in Iraq, Anderson has been featured in USA Today, Esquire, Los Angeles Times, New York Times and his hometown newspaper, Chicago Sun-Times. In 2012, Anderson won a regional Emmy Award for his PBS show, Reporting for Service with Bryan Anderson. He also wrote a book, No Turning Back: One Man’s Inspiring True Story of Courage, Determination, and Hope. •