By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — Inspiration can come from the most unexpected places and people.
Marty Sheedy spent his time Nov. 19 speaking to students of the Academic Center of Excellence program at the Michael Berry Center in Dearborn, inspiring them with stories and experiences from his own life.
“Yes I knew I always had challenges but knew in my mind that if I kept pushing and kept working and walking and exercising that I could do more than what people thought,” Sheedy the told students. “So, it’s truly about what’s inside and your self determination.”
Sheedy, 28, was born with multiple congenital deformities including arthrogryposis multiplex congenita and prune belly syndrome.
Doctors told his parents that he would not live past 3 years old and even if he did he would, he would not be able to walk or function normally.
Fast-foward 28 years, and Sheedy is alive and enjoying life.
He is able to walk thanks to a method he uses called scissor gate, which involves a gait similar to scissors due to spastic paraplegia. Sheedy taught himself how to walk, with his legs crisscrossed at a young age.
He uses braces on his feet to help him walk. Sheedy said his walk doesn’t cause him any pain and it is easier for him than walking normal, which he is capable of doing.
“The doctor said, ‘Just kept doing that because if your walk can help and benefit you, if you try to fix it, you wouldn’t have the mobility to be able to do what you do.’” Sheedy said.
He also drives himself with the help of hand controls and has a walker to use for long walks, but doesn’t need a wheelchair.
Sheedy received treatment at Shriners Hospitals for Children-Chicago, where he later served as a membership chairman.
“One of the major reasons why, physically, I am OK now is because of the Shriners Hospital for Children,” he said. “My mom took me every couple of months to Chicago and that’s where I had all my orthopedic surgeries and all of my treatment. They were a big part of me overcoming my physical obstacles growing up.”
Through Shriners, Sheedy travels around the country to tell his story and explain how the hospital helped him. He enjoys educating others about the way he walks in order to spread awareness.
Sheedy, who is an only child, emphasized that support and love from family and friends has allowed him to get to where he is today.
He is a Dearborn native and Edsel Ford High School grad, and he also attended Henry Ford College.
“I loved every minute of it there,” he said of his time attending Dearborn Public Schools. “I had great experience. I was very lucky and fortunate. I was never picked on, bullied, it was a true blessing growing up in that school system.”
Music has served as an outlet for Sheedy. He said he likes all genres of music and is a big fan of Eminem and Kid Rock. Sheedy likes attending concerts, which is where he was discovered by someone special.
The manager for Eminem’s former band, D12, saw Sheedy at a Royce da 5’9” concert and contacted him a couple days later. Sheedy was even able to spend time as an intern at his office.
Through networking and building relationships, Sheedy was able to achieve his goal of creating his foundation.
Sheedy said he knew he wanted to help people when he was younger and through his non-profit Project Scissor Gait Foundation he is able to.
Sheedy also started a website in 2008 explaining his walk to others.
“My ultimate goal, my ultimate dream was to create this organization and now I’m going to provide medical equipment and scholarships for people across the counter with these conditions because there is nobody on a national scale that’s doing it,” he said.
Through his foundation, he works to provide medical equipment for families and people affected by arthrogryposis and prune belly syndrome, establish scholarships, educate and spread awareness and be active in community outreach.
Sheedy encourages people to ask questions about his condition instead of just watching him. He enjoys talking and making conversation with others.
“If I was a person on the outside looking at me, you’d better believe I would be curious and asking myself, ‘How and why does he walk like that,” and, “I wonder what condition he has?’” Sheedy said.
“So once I get to talk to new people and get to know them for a little bit, I try and get right into why I walk the way I do and briefly explain a little about arthrogryposis because it makes me feel that we are on the same level and we can continue on without the curiosity killing the cat.”
For more information on Sheedy and the Project Scissor Gait Foundation go to martysheedy.com.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected].)