Don Lanspery of Harrington recently spoke to the children of Milford’s Lulu Ross Elementary Project Unity Club about his disability and how he overcomes it. “Mr. Don” spoke to the children about the many ways in which we are all the same and the ways we are different. He talked about manners including how one should address a person with a disability as a person first and the disability second. He also stressed that a person with a disability may want to be as independent as possible, so one should always ask first if the person wants or needs help.
“All people want to be treated with kindness and respect,” said Lanspery. “Young children are very receptive to learning how people with disabilities need to adapt.”
Donald Lanspery has been a digital amputee since 1999 when he had all of his fingers and toes removed from complication of an illness. Feeling very sick after teaching swimming lessons one evening, Donald called his doctor and was rushed to the nearest hospital. While in transport, he went into a coma which would last three weeks. During that time, all of Mr. Lanspery’s organs stopped working except for his heart and he was given a 10% chance to survive. Unable to be stabilized for transport to John Hopkins Hospital, due to gangrene in his extremities, his family decided to amputate his fingers and toes in order to save Donald’s life.
What was later diagnosed as septicemia, a bacterial blood infection, Mr. Lanspery would have to relearn how to live his life without any fingers or toes. Nine months of therapy and unconditional determination were necessary for Donald to begin to walk, talk and perform daily activities for himself.
Lanspery demonstrated the use of several adaptive tools that he uses including scissors, a long shoe horn, a card holder and a myoelectric arm. The latter he uses for fishing, to play tennis, and to vacuum around the house. The children had many questions which “Mr. Don” answered, telling them about what happened to him, how he has felt about his disability and how a positive attitude has kept him going.
“We are all individually different and persons with disabilities are people first and not defined by their disability,” commented Lanspery . “Uniqueness should be celebrated and not taunted. A positive attitude keeps you going when things are difficult.”
Mr. Lanspery hopes that by reaching enough children about disability awareness through this program he can encourage state government to adopt additional programs like these. A huge supporter of volunteerism, he encourages every individual to volunteer their time to help local children. Lanspery is a member of the Advisory Council of Volunteer Delaware 50+, and besides giving talks to elementary school children, he also volunteers for Read-Aloud Delaware, is a Big Brother and volunteers for his church.
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