Disability doesn’t slow student
Disability doesn’t slow student
JOCELYN GOTLIB THE WASHTENAW VOICE
Amanda Kitchens excelled in the CPR class despite her disability. ‘It may take me little longer, but most of the time I can do it myself,’ said Kitchens.
Since she was 16 years old, Washtenaw Community College student Jessica Kitchens has known what she wants to do with her life: swim with the dolphins, training them.
“Sea World or out in the ocean, as long as I’m helping dolphins I’d be happy,” said Kitchens.
Now 20, the Liberal Arts transfer from Ann Arbor recently completed the CPR/EMT class at WCC after learning it would help in preparing for her training with dolphins.
Completing the class is impressive enough for anyone. But for Kitchens, the accomplishment is even more striking. She was born with a disability known as VATER syndrome, a series of birth defects that are associated, but it is unknown which genes cause the defects. The defects are different in each person diagnosed with the syndrome, but for Kitchens it just makes some things a little than for most.
Kitchens was born with deformities in both arms. But she doesn’t look at her disability as much of a roadblock.
“I was born this way, so I don’t know anything different,” she said. “It may take me a little longer, but most of the time I can do it myself.”
With that kind of attitude, she enrolled in the CPR class, and went on to excel during the semester.
And Kitchens’ professor Hiralal Dedhia was so pleased and impressed with her performance that he phoned The Washtenaw Voice to suggest that her story be told as an inspiration to others.
“Amanda did a fantastic job,” Dedhia said. “It was amazing to watch her doing CPR check offs with her disability.
“Her disability did not impact her performance. Only once or twice, I had to modify check offs for her. And she did not ask for help from anyone. I really enjoyed having her in my class.”
Kitchens said that having the handicap doesn’t usually present a problem for her when she’s performing CPR. She only struggles with full-grown people when they are choking because she cannot wrap her arms around them. However, she can coach the person or someone in the room on what to do. Kitchens also offered another solution.
“Maybe the person could pass out, and then I can definitely help them,” Kitchens joked.
But she’s serious about working with dolphins and hopes to develop it into a career.
She first encountered those amazing animals when she was given a trip to Island Dolphin Care in Key Largo, Fla., four years ago. While swimming with a mother and baby dolphin Kitchens felt an indelible connection to them that soon became a calling.
Dolphins can sense how comfortable people are around them and will allow humans to get closer to them if they like, she said. When a baby dolphin allowed Kitchens to touch her fin and swim with it, she was hooked.
Kitchens plans on attending the Exotic Animal Training and Management program at Moorpark College in California after earning her transfer degree from WCC.
After finishing the EATM program, Kitchens said she would like to return to Island Dolphin Care facility and work at the place where her passion began.
“IDC is a great program,” Kitchens said. “I’d love to work there someday.”