A Comprehensive Cerebral Palsy Resource

An Unexpected Hiker

Story written by: carol

One of the most common things you will encounter people doing in everyday life is making excuses. They make excuses for their problems; they make excuses for the mistakes they make; they make excuses for other people around them – and it is rare that you see people doing the opposite of this. It is rare that you see people – instead of making excuses – looking for ways to overcome the ready-made excuses sitting in their lap. But this is exactly what Chris Kain and his daughter Kellisa Kain have done; where many others would take the excuses handed to these two and use them as crutches to lean on through life, Chris and Kellisa have looked for ways, at every turn, to overcome the obstacles that stand in their way.

Fourteen years ago – on May 23, 1999 – Kellisa and her twin sister Kirsten were born at Rush Medical Center in Jacksonville, Florida, 15 weeks earlier than their expected arrival date. As is to be expected among babies born this far in advance, the twin girls had immediate, complicated health issues, and while the doctors at Rush Medical Center deemed Kirsten to be the healthier of the two, they were not optimistic about either girl’s chances, and they were especially pessimistic about Kellisa’s chances of surviving at all. Less than 24 hours after the girls had been born, however, Kirsten had passed away, and the doctors began to prepare Chris and his wife Lisa for the expectation that the same would happen to Kellisa. But the doctors were wrong, 14 years ago – and they have continued to be wrong regarding Kellisa ever since then.

When Kellisa was two weeks old, she had her first surgery – fixing a defect in her heart. Two short months after that, she went through another surgery – this one to implant a ventriculoperitoneal shunt in order to keep cerebrospinal fluid from building up in her skull and putting pressure on her brain.

Nearly four months after Kellisa was born, however, she was still hanging in there, and she was finally released to go home from Rush Medical Center. Since that point, her life has been one triumph after another, and she and her father now celebrate life by chasing their quest to complete at least one hike in all 50 states before the end of March, 2014 – with Chris on foot, and Kellisa in her wheelchair.

This is a hobby that began when Chris took Kellisa to a state park in northern Georgia where a concrete path provided easy access to the view of a particular waterfall. Upon arriving at this outlook, however, Chris realized that the best view of the waterfall was further along – accessible only by a hiking path – and he decided that his daughter had a right to see this view, maneuvering her out onto the bumpy path. Since that time, their hikes have been a regular occurrence – with Chris calling the state parks in advance to let them know his daughter’s situation, and to notify the park they will be coming.

Recently, Chris and his cousin Matt Buckingham pulled Kellisa through the famed Narrows at Zion National Park in Utah on a small, one-person raft – their most difficult challenge yet. After practicing over and over again, as best as they could, in Florida, they made the trip to Utah, and they checked one more successful trip off their list.

Chris and Kellisa continue to shun excuses in pursuit of something better: a full, adventurous life, proving to the world that people with disabilities can accomplish far more than most people ever realize!