Wpg Free Press: Uplift: Raising awareness, one step at a time
The following Winnipeg Free Press story focuses on Heidi Wilson, who works in caretaking at the U of M:
A few weeks after Heidi Wilson was born her parents were told she would never walk or talk.
But on this past Sunday, the now 32-year-old Wilson wore a yellow shirt — and she was not only walking, but talking.
Wilson was wearing yellow to celebrate Microcephaly Awareness Day on Sept. 30, and she was hoping to talk to as many people as she could to raise awareness about the disorder which many people don’t know about.
“When I talk to people they don’t realize I’m microcephalic,” she said recently.
“When I was a child they did measure the circumference of my head. I’m now five-foot, three-inches and I’m short because of the microcephaly. My head has gotten larger, but it is still a bit smaller than others.
“But I’m someone with it who can talk about it and I really want to tell people about it.”
According to the World Health Organization, microcephaly is a condition where a baby is born with a small head or when the head stops growing after birth. It is rare, with one baby in several thousand born with it.
But it has received a bit more attention in recent years because of the outbreak of the Zika virus in South America and the Caribbean. The virus has spread to pregnant mothers through infected mosquitos and results in the baby being born with severe microcephaly and other cognitive disabilities.
Usually what causes microcephaly is unknown, but some other causes can be severe malnutrition during fetal life, pre- and perinatal injuries to the brain while developing, and genetic conditions including Down syndrome.
Wilson said it was because of the increased awareness due to the Zika virus that made her want to talk about it. She doesn’t know how she became microcephalic.
“I tell people I have something similar to what happens to babies with the Zika virus, but it’s not something to be afraid of,” she said.
“I’ve had people, because of the Zika virus, back away from me when I tell them I have microcephaly, but I tell them they can’t get it from me. I would tell them to research it.
“I won’t spread it by a mosquito.”
For Wilson, besides walking and talking, being microcephalic hasn’t stopped her from getting a job and getting married. She began working in the kitchen at the University of Manitoba and now is a caretaker cleaning the buildings.