By MICHAEL CONWAY
Kevin Currie is an enigma. Although stifled by a form of cerebral palsy named spastic diplegia, and other conditions associated with the neurological disorder, the 39-year-old Saugus resident lives a happy, active life CP restricts him from completing many everyday tasks, still his spirit soars beyond the disorder’s crippling ways. Medical jargon does not define Kevin, who was born two months premature, as he refuses to be undermined.At age 3 came the prognosis/premonition. A teacher at a United Cerebral Palsy preschool seemingly knew the toddler’s fate when she pulled his mother aside. “Kevin will go far,” Diane Currie was told. “He’s much more sociable than others his age.”
Until last year, when she suffered a stroke, Diane was the primary caretaker. She knows her son best, mentioning a trait that has not only hindered, but helped him succeed.
“He can be stubborn,” she said from their Birch Street home. “If you try to tell Kevin he can’t do something, he just does it. In fact, he does most things all by himself.”
Currie learned to overcome barriers he’d face in life when he lived at and attended the Massachusetts Hospital School in Canton. He graduated with the class of 1999. Additionally, Saugus High School made a special accommodation for him to graduate with his hometown peers at Stackpole Field. Kevin went on to earn both Mental Health and Paraeducator certificates at North Shore Community College in Lynn.
Each weekday at 6 a.m., Currie wakes and a personal care attendant readies him for the day. He eats breakfast, shouts “Love you too Ma” and is belted into a pricey, electric wheelchair and then secured in a Greater Lynn Senior Services van headed for Boston. While The Ride passes jittery overcaffeinated commuters on Route 1, Currie trades one-liners with the driver. His laugh is contagious.
Arriving at Mass General Hospital, the lift is lowered and off he goes. Multiple greetings are exchanged before he enters the lobby. Although treated here by some of the highest-rated doctors in the world, Currie’s not scheduled for an appointment. He’s here to work.
With more than 8000 hours clocked in, only one other volunteer hovers above him at MGH. Serving as an ambassador and helping in the mail room, he’ll spend his day escorting visitors and delivering mail throughout the campus’ many buildings. He knows every corridor, department and floor; he’s a human GPS.
Although continually stopped by co-workers to chat, he completes his tasks promptly and flawlessly. But, most don’t know the bigger picture. He is legally blind.
“I can only see shadows,” Currie said. “Unless you say something to me, I don’t even know you’re there.”
Come late afternoon, he’s transported home on The Ride. He’ll eat dinner, phone his girlfriend and watch the Sox. He’s an avid fan.
At 10 p.m. an aide returns and helps him get ready for bed.
His weekends are up for grabs.
The National Institute of Health reports that approximately 30-to-50 percent of those with CP will be intellectually impaired. Currie clearly does not fall within this data. Broach any subject, he’s up for a good debate. He is sharp and focused.
Kevin and his mom agree that transportation is one of the most difficult issues in dealing with cerebral palsy.
Has he ever felt self-pity? “Nope.”
Part of his success has been his social capabilities. “I really like being around people,” he said.
He’s rubbed elbows with the late Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, local sports heroes including Ty Law and David “Big Papi” Ortiz, and other celebrities. He admits becoming star-struck when he was in the presence of former first lady Barbara Bush.
Currie said he loves work, family (he’s the third of four children) and his girlfriend, Allison. He became overly excited talking about the family’s annual summer camp in New Hampshire. He’s received numerous awards and acclamations at MGH., and is a proud member of the Saugus Handicap Commission.
What’s bothered him most about having CP?
“It’s all I’ve ever known,” he replied.
Noted for his sense of humor, Currie recalled once taking medicine to relieve spasms, and why it was discontinued.
“Baclofen made me tired,” he said. “When I was a student, I woke up with my head on my desk, drooling,” he said, with impeccable timing, and then, a fit of laughter.
His wheelchair once featured a license plate that shed light on which direction Currie long ago set his compass: “Eat My Dust,” it said.
Michael Conway is a freelance writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.