Skip Navigation

+ + +



Older Newer

June 07, 2023

My Story by Patty Price, as told to and written by Robbie Shell

Patty Price
Interview with Robbie Shell
May 2023

When I was a year old, I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Mom had taken me to a clinic run by the Easter Seal Society. She was concerned because I wasn’t doing the regular things that babies do, like crawling or pulling up.

Mom knew I was going to be disabled for the rest of my life. I wasn’t in a wheelchair until I was about five. Until then I was small enough to be carried.

I was born on February 8, 1959, in Havertown, Pa. I already had an older brother. After me there were two more kids, a girl and a boy.

It was around the time I turned five that we moved out to Newtown Square because I had gotten too big to be constantly lifted up and down stairs. Our house in Havertown had two stories. In Newtown Square, it was all on one floor. I shared a room with my younger sister. She and my brothers helped out with me when they could. We were all too little to understand that I was disabled.

I went to a school in Media for people with disabilities. I took all the regular subjects offered in middle school and high school. I loved math, believe it or not. But I didn’t like reading because it took me so long to get each word. There was nothing I could do about that. It’s part of the disability. I graduated with a high school diploma when I was 21.

That was when I came to Inglis for the first time. My Mom had surgery, and she couldn’t lift me for several months. So Inglis agreed to take me in on a temporary basis, and I liked it there.

Two years later, at 23, I went back to Inglis for good. Mom and I decided it was time I had a life other than her. It was a hard decision because the second time I came back, I knew I would be staying forever.

Despite my difficulty with reading, I always loved learning new things. At Inglis, I continued to take classes through Delaware County Community College. We didn’t have to go out. The teachers came to us. I graduated with a degree in liberal arts when I was 28.

When I was growing up, I always had friends who could walk. I don’t know if I did that on purpose. But I never looked at myself as being different. I was just sitting, and they were standing. A fair number of them are sitting now, too.

Back then, I never really thought about my disability. Because I was disabled for as long as I can remember, it never affected me much until I got older. But sometimes I think that if I hadn’t been born prematurely, if Mom could have kept me in another month or two before she had me, then I might have been better off. I was really premature. You could fit me in the palm of your hand. It was a long struggle.

Things might have been different if I had ever been on my feet, but I never was. I’m not glad that I have CP, but I’m glad that I was not walking one minute and then, for whatever reason, not able to walk the next minute.

I think there is probably some resentment if you can’t explain to someone with MS [multiple sclerosis] how it is different for you. I don’t get worse, but MS people can get sicker and sicker depending on how much their MS has progressed. My CP doesn’t get worse, so I am more stable than some others here at Inglis.

My mom is 90, and we are in touch every day. At Inglis, I have an iPad, a TV, a radio and Spotify. I read books that came with my iPad. Right now I’m reading a story about a family who lost their daughter in a car accident. A lot of the stories are very sad, and oh man, you find yourself feeling lucky that you are okay.

I will have been here 41 years on May 20. My friend Diane has been here 51 years. She holds the record. We had a party for her when she hit that number. I have another good friend, Candy, who doesn’t have a disability. We shared a backyard in Newtown Square. We were neighbors. She was 11 years older. When she got married, I went to her wedding. We have stayed in touch even though it hasn’t been easy.

When I first came to Inglis, there wasn’t much to do back then. There was no computer lab, no room where you could smoke a cigarette, and not that many classes to take. Now there are concerts, speakers, birthday celebrations, sports days, lots of classes if you want to take them, and trips. I loved going to the race track. Now I go to flea markets or to a shopping mall and also to restaurants.

I took a film class a few years ago, and I go to Bible class every once in a while. The way the Bible is written, I don’t think I could ever read it alone even if I wanted to. Nancy, the Inglis chaplain, is good at explaining things.

My favorite person in the Bible is John because he had his feet in both worlds. He admitted to having doubts, but he still wanted to follow the road. Hopefully people can see themselves doing that. There are so many reasons to get knocked off the road, but when you see how he lived, it’s inspirational. Everything is not perfect, and it never will be, but when you are reading passages from the Gospel of John, things seem pretty good.

I go to church in Founders Hall every Sunday. I have been doing that for 18 years. I was born and raised a Catholic.

I was on resident council for six or seven years. I didn’t like that. Too many people complained all the time. You could sit and complain, but you have to look at the other side of things, too. I try really hard to be upbeat because it doesn’t get you anywhere to feel that way. I sometimes feel depressed, but it doesn’t last and I move on.

I have had three romantic relationships. They didn’t go too well. For me, and I don’t know why, the feeling of love is so big and so overwhelming that I fall for it. But then, after a while, it doesn’t seem to last. It’s hard to be friends after that, but the men aren’t on my floor so that makes it easier.

People come in here with more serious illnesses than they did before. A person you get to know now, you may only know them for a short time. It’s funny: When you get to know somebody, you don’t notice their sicknesses after a while. It’s always there, but it’s not so obvious.

It’s hard to watch people pass away. It depends on how well you knew the person. When I first came here, I was so young that I took it very hard when people died, especially when they weren’t that old. Now it’s not that difficult for me because sometimes people are just so sick. It’s hard for us to remember that we do have problems, and that’s why we are here.

A lot of people just need someone to be with. There was one woman who couldn’t get around by herself so she asked me to visit her in her room, which I did for 11 years. If I couldn’t do what she needed, I would find the person who could. It’s nothing big, but when you can’t get around yourself, it’s big.

The neat thing about Inglis is they still try really hard to offer a lot. We can sit around and complain about this or that, but they didn’t have to get us a computer lab or take us on trips, like the one to Lancaster on Tuesday. Before about eight years ago, we ate meals in our rooms. Now there are solariums on each floor where we can be with other residents and choose what we want to eat. If you think about it, with close to 200 of us living here, it must be hard to satisfy each of us, but the idea that they are willing to make the effort says a lot for them.

The fact that we can come and go as we please, if we are able, is one of the best things about being here. Some residents can go by themselves in their wheelchairs to the shopping center a few blocks away, but I have never gone there without assistance. I went to the Olive Garden with my sister one time. I scared her to death because you never know how quickly things can go bad. But it was okay. I always get either the bread sticks or the noodles. My favorite snacks are Oreos and candy corn.

What I love most is the garden. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t remind me so much of where I live when we are seeing the back of the building from the outside. It looks like it could be a palace. For that little while, you don’t have to be disabled. You can separate your inside life from the freedom of the outside life. Sometimes when I’m in the garden, I can think it’s all mine because I have been here for so long that I feel like it belongs to me.

The person I looked up to the most was my mother. My mom was always a mother, but after my parents separated and divorced, she started her own business and did that for the next 15 years. It was a big change for her. She ran a transportation company for the disabled in Upper Darby. What happened was people with disabilities used to call and ask for rides here and there. She never saw herself as a bigwig, but she ended up becoming one. It all happened to work out. If it wasn’t for me, she wouldn’t have gotten into the business. It changed all our lives for the better. She could support us after my father left.

I like to read romance novels, true stories and some mysteries. And I like to watch TV -- “The Young and the Restless,” “The Bold and the Beautiful,” and “General Hospital.” I have been watching that last one since I was five, starting in 1964, and then regularly since the 1970s. I like the old movies best. One of my favorite people was Marlo Thomas in “That Girl.” One of my favorite movies was Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson in “A Star Is Born.” I saw it three times.

We have been through some pretty rough times, including during the worst of Covid. People probably look at me and say her whole life has been a rough time. I don’t feel that way. I guess I view my life from the upside. I could view it from the other side, but that wouldn’t do very much for me.

And there’s the fact that I have a job, for goodness sake. I am a greeter at the front entrance for two hours on Wednesday and three hours on Saturday. That opens a wider door now. And besides, you have no idea who is going to come through that door.

I can’t change the fact that I have a disability. So I don’t dwell on it. I never give up. Today, I feel more alert than I ever have. Plus I had a shower, and that feels good.