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Thursday 15 November 2018
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Taking life all in stride

Anthony Kipps is 13 years old. He attends the St Joseph Secondary School and, like many other students his age, he has to walk from his home to hail a taxi to get to school each day during the week.

Sounds simple enough. After all, it’s an everyday occurrence and no big deal. Indeed, Kipps’ not the only one who has to make this trek sometimes three, four or more times a day, so maybe it does not sound very impressive.

However, after visiting his home at Green Hill, Maracas, St Joseph, one will acquire new respect for this young man.

You see Kipps lives way at the top of Green Hill and has to make his trips on one “normal” leg.

Doctors have diagnosed his disability as right primary focal femoral dysplasia, which means his right leg is shorter than his left. In order to compensate for the problem, Kipps wears an extension brace on specially modified shoes. He also uses a walking stick for extra support. The disability, however, does not stop Kipps from carrying on a normal life.

In fact, Kipps has grand plans and has already put some of them in motion. He is an active member of his school’s students’ council and is now racking his young mind as to how he can help the people of his community.

“They judge you by how many things you do in school and in your community ... how you help people. I do everything in school. I helped in a cookout and a gospel concert and I play steelpan - tenor, bass and double tenor,” Kipps told Sunday Newsday during an interview last week.

He also took part in a walkathon from the University of the West Indies, St Augustine, and back to his school during Diabetes Week in June last year.

While St Joseph Secondary was not his first choice, Kipps was pleased with his placement because he felt that he “did his best”. He proudly displayed his report cards, which showed mostly grade As, adding he especially enjoyed Spanish.

The young man has a very distinctive gait magnified by his disability, but his activities of self giving and selflessness have not gone unnoticed.Kipps was awarded the “Youth of the Year” award when the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development hosted the National Youth Awards Ceremony at the National Academy for Performing Arts (NAPA) in Port-of-Spain on August 12. He also earned the Youth Special Circumstances/Persons Living with Disabilities award in the 12-17-year-old age group.

“Now I’ve been named Youth of the Year, but what can I do next?” he questioned.

Sitting in his humble, two-room, wooden home, with the rain producing a rhythmic staccato on the galvanise during the interview, Kipps seemed to have accepted his disability and has embraced life to the fullest.

He has accomplished the climb up and down the hilly terrain in his community almost effortlessly and puts most others to shame.

“The easiest part is going down, but when I’m coming up I get a bit tired,” Kipps admitted.

However, he said he will never change his way of mobility, even if it would make his life physically easier.

Kipps was brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness and follows the tenets of his religion, therefore prosthetics are out of the question. He believes that in the system of his religion, eventually everyone will be perfect and have everlasting life.

“I wouldn’t want to change anything now. I’m happy and I’m comfortable,” he said with a smile.

The young boy also believes in helping the innocent and so has turned his focus to law.

“I want to be a lawyer and I doubt I would change my mind from that. When you’re in court, you’re defending some people who are innocent and helping them,” he said.

Kipps’ mother, June, said she still cannot understand why her son was born with the disability.

“I was asked a lot of questions which I didn’t have the answers for. Everything was negative for drugs. I never used drugs so they never said what was the reason for that,” she said.

While raising her son was a lot more difficult than raising his sister, Felicia, she said her family foundation and support from the church have been key in the process.

“It wasn’t really difficult because of the support base that we have with my family and being a Jehovah’s Witness, I get a lot of support from my fellow brothers and sisters. We had a lot of support even from the neighbours, young and old, a lot of support and encouragement,” the elder Kipps said.

“When I would feel down and depressed, I know when I go down the hill to take him to school, because I carried him for a long while until he could manage the hill on his own, it was very tiring ... I got encouragement and somebody might take him for a while and then the taxi drivers would give me a lift because I have to walk out to the corner and take a taxi and sometimes we don’t get taxis, so we have to walk to Acono Junction and take a taxi there.

“Taxi drivers going out, if they have space they would take us up and give us a ride to the corner and some drivers would take $1 or $2 less, so all of that made it a little easier to cope with this situation.”

The proud mother also said Kipps’ school days were enjoyable ones, noting that while some children could be cruel to others who are differently-abled, her child had been spared the treatment.

“I didn’t know that the principal used to talk to the other children about his condition and how he was to be treated. There was only one little incident we had with another little boy who was very close to him since kindergarten,” she recalled of her son’s experiences in school.

“It stemmed from being disturbed at home and he took it out on Anthony, but as parents we dealt with it, so we really didn’t have much incidents with him. Most of the children were curious. They wanted to know was he born like that, why was he born like that, which I found was very amazing.”

Father, Harold, praised his wife for her dedication to their two children and the family. Kipps’ 96-year-old grandfather, Hector, also lives with the family.

“She was with him right through. She was the one who would take them to school, I would help out if there was a teacher short, or I would help with computer studies,” Harold said, adding that theirs was a humble, but happy family and he and his wife always put their children first.

Fights with his sister? Well, according to June, that was a way of life.

Contacted on Kipps’ disability, general practitioner, Dr Varma Deyalsingh said it was possible that Kipps’ condition could pose a strain on his back and therefore he might not be able to do “normal” exercises. However, he recommended that the boy try swimming, which would be beneficial to him.

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