January 1, 2014 Edition

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Goodson lives extraordinary life

Pamala Goodson was born with cerebral palsy, affecting her speech and mobility. She doesn't let that hold her back. Through advances in technology not only can she get around in her wheelchair, but she also communicates with friends and family all over the world through the Internet.
Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

Until recent years, Pamala Goodson had always had a hard time communicating with others. She was born with cerebral palsy, which caused her to have a speech defect that made it difficult to talk. However, that doesn't mean that Pamala doesn't have a lot to say. Now more than ever, through the use of social media websites such as Facebook, Pamala is talking up a storm.

"The Internet has opened up a whole new world for me," Pamala said. "I get to talk to people I would never get to talk to otherwise. It takes away my speech defect."

Through online messaging, Pamala now communicates with friends and family across the world. She types out one letter at a time with a stick to extend her reach.

One of her friends, Norm Neece of Walnut Ridge and Arlington, Va., said it really helps with long distance communication, as talking over the phone is particularly challenging for Pamala.

Pamala said the Internet has also allowed her to read books and newspapers, play games and watch movies at the click of a button. Many of these things had been difficult if not impossible before.

One thing that the Internet has allowed her to do was quite surprising. "I travel the world through Facebook," Pamala said. Pamala follows friends such as Norm as they make trips to different countries. She likes to call them whimsical road trips. "I won't ever get to do all that, but I can do it through Facebook."

It is clear that if she were able, Pamala would be a well-traveled woman. Every inch of her walls is covered in postcards, letters, photos and souvenirs from her "travels."

Exposed to world through friends

However, it's not that Pamala never gets to go out; after spending a rather sheltered life in Sedgwick she now enjoys regular outings thanks to her friends.

"I made a dear forever-friend in Norm, who began taking me on outings such as movies, plays, lakes and restaurants," she said. "I am forever grateful to him and my other friends for taking the time to show me the world. I lived in the country all my life and wasn't exposed to all of this. When I was at home, it was just me and my mom and we didn't get to go out much."

Pamala was born April 27, 1959, with severe spastic cerebral palsy, which is caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain. In Pamala's case, her mobility and speech were affected. She said she has a perfect mind and often feels trapped inside her own body. "I've never walked and have only limited use of my left hand. I value my independence greatly, however limited."

"Pam is one of the most amazing women I know, and I am so proud to call her my friend," Beverly Reynolds, Pamala's former aide, said. "Pam has always told me she just wanted to be treated like a normal person. She hates it when she's treated like a baby just because she's in a wheelchair. I was guilty of that myself until I got to know the remarkable woman she really is."

Pamala has relied on wheelchairs most of her life. She has had her current wheelchair since she was 15. She didn't receive her first computer until she was 45, and she didn't even know how to turn it on. These two inventions rank as some of Pamala's favorites.

"This wheelchair has given me the ability to walk, and I feel like the Internet has now giving me the ability to talk," Pamala said.

Pamala was 48 when she moved into Lawrence Hall Nursing Center six years ago. She had stayed with her mother who took care of Pamala until she was unable to because of her own health.

"Mamma selflessly took loving care of me," Pamala said. "I was loved by the greatest Mamma on earth."

Has passion for residents' welfare

Pamala, however, has fully adjusted to living at Lawrence Hall. She has served as the resident council president for five years and addresses many concerns that the residents have.

"I try to focus on everybody and the future of the home," she said. Pamala said she feels very strongly about her work, which can be seen by looking at the courtyard lawn at Lawrence Hall. Pamala worked on the project to have a gazebo installed to provide shade. She even designed the tables, which allow those in wheelchairs to sit at them.

"I wanted it to look more like a backyard," Pamala said. "This is going to be my home until I die."

Pamala has made a family at Lawrence Hall and spends much of her time visiting with other residents.

"She has deep concern for the other residents and goes beyond the call of duty to make sure they are well taken care of," said Beverly. "Pam visits with the residents and has many friends there who rely on her. She is their voice. She will go to the top if need be to make sure they are heard."

Pamala's parents, Truman and Lila Goodson, are both deceased, but both cared for her as long as they could. Pamala also has four siblings who offer their support for Pamala and her endeavors.

"I've got a good family. I'm the spoiled one," she said.

Living with cerebral palsy hasn't been the easiest thing and Pamala said many have had misconceptions about her condition, which she hopes can be extinguished.

"I'm very blessed and hope this helps others to look at life differently and appreciate their lives more."

"I don't like pity of any kind. I never question why me," she said. "I face life with a smile knowing life is what you make it. I'm very grateful for all the kindness and love I've been shown my whole life."

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