Nothing is going to slow Abby Gase down.
|Abby Gase at the Wood County Fair with her pig that she shows. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
She has shown a goat and a pig at the Wood County Fair this week, swims with the Bowling Green Swim Club and has proven to be pretty good at archery.
Gase turns 11 this month and will be in the fifth grade at Otsego.
She's active despite having been diagnosed with transverse myelitis in September 2006.
Transverse myelitis is a neurological disorder caused by inflammation across both sides of one level, or segment, of the spinal cord. The term myelitis refers to inflammation of the spinal cord; transverse simply describes the position of the inflammation, that is, across the width of the spinal cord.
Attacks of inflammation can damage or destroy myelin, the fatty insulating substance that covers nerve cell fibers. This damage causes nervous system scars that interrupt communications between the nerves in the spinal cord and the rest of the body.
Gase has no use of her left leg and needs crutches to get around.
Still she wants to be treated as a normal kid.
When asked if she wanted people to feel sorry for her, Gase said: ''No.''
She also answered ''No'' when asked if she would change anything.
Her mother, Mary, agreed with her daughter.
"I won't either, as horrible as that sounds. I wish she didn't have to go through everything,'' Mary said. ''But, we have met the most incredible people and just had some pretty awesome experiences that we would have never, ever done.''
With her medical condition Abby is unable to catch a pig in the fair's annual pig-catching event, but the Masonic Lodge in Tontogany makes sure she gets one.
''I did (raise a pig) last year for my first year and get fifth place in the show.'' This year she raised another pig and decided to add showing goats to her repertoire.
''This was my first year showing goats. My goat got first place in the judging in his class. He did good.'' She can use her crutch with the pig, but showing a goat is more of a problem.
Older brother, Will, stepped in to help with the goat.
''You hold his collar and walk him like a dog,'' Abby said. ''My goat would not go. He would go the other way.
''Will was able to walk my goat and I would set his feet and do something called bracing him, so he would flex his muscles, I guess you would say,'' Abby added about showing the goat.
And while showing animals at the fair has been a positive, the swim club has provided Abby with challenges that have made her a stronger person.
In the pool she is just another swimmer, except she cannot kick. In three months this summer, she cut 11 seconds off her time in the 50 freestyle and is looking to go under 50 seconds in the event.
''I can say, and this will sound like a cliche, I think swimming saved her,'' Abby's mother said. ''After she got over that initial hump, I think she found it, because in the pool she is normal.
''The swim team has been amazing, they don't give her a break - it's not 'Oh no Abby' can't do this.' They have been awesome,'' Mary continued. ''She would be on the couch playing iPad or something else, if she wasn't there.''
At first, swimming was hard for Abby.
''It took about three weeks, four weeks before she said 'let's go swimming.' I think she got some endurance,'' Mary said. ''She was hurting when she first started.''
The swim club coaches appreciate Abby's work ethic.
''Abby has an amazing attitude. She doesn't like being treated differently, so she pretty much does everything all the other kids do,'' said George Leatherman, Abby's age group coach. ''Sometimes we have to get creative when it comes to her legs and kicking, but she always gives 100 percent.
''Abby is the type of swimmer a coach loves to have on the team, positive attitude, friends with everyone and very coachable.''
She was not able to swim during the winter sessions after undergoing surgery on her right leg.
''I had surgery to put screws in my growth plates on my right knee, so my left leg could catch up; my legs are a different length,'' Abby said.
She was out of the water for 2 1/2 months.
''It was horrible,'' her mother said about being unable to swim. ''It was a long process. We're waiting for that growth spurt to hit to see if her left leg will grow a little.''
While Abby has been learning in the pool, it's also been a learning experience for the coaches and other swimmers.
''Over the last two years she has been an inspiration for everyone,'' said Carolyn Strunk, the swim club's head coach. ''When the swimmers think they are tired and then they see Abby plugging along without complaint, they know they have no room to complain.
''She also does dryland the same as everyone else in her group and her upper body strength has improved significantly,'' Strunk continued. ''One thing we have learned is that she will push herself to exhaustion if we aren't careful in watching her workload.''
Gase also received motivation from Victoria Arien, a New Hampshire native, who has TM and was a swimming goal medalist at the Paralympics in London.
The two met last year at a disability swim meet in Cincinnati and are now email friends.
Leatherman surprised Abby by showing up at the meet in Cincinnati. He was able to study Arlen, to find out what would be best for Abby in the pool.
Abby said Arien has inspired her to work hard in order to get to the Paralympics.
Even with a major time commitment in swimming, Gase enjoys archery.
Her interest in the sport started at a TM camp in 2009.
''There was an archery range there, and that was one of the activities. So I went there to shoot and I was good at it,'' Abby said.
''She grabbed a bow and got a bulls-eye,'' Mary said. ''She kept going back and going back. She just wanted to just keep doing it.''
Abby practices archery in the backyard and with the 4-H club.
''She might be better at archery. At the NJDC (National Junior Disability Championships), she destroyed the national record; blew it out of the water,'' Mary said. ''But she loves swimming.''
Maybe it's Abby's love for the water which is leading her to a new challenge - water skiing.
Abby did water ski once, sitting down. Now she wants to ski just like everyone else, so don't count her out.