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Foster’s Daily Democrat:’Champion’ child in Rochester sees opportunity over limitation

By DANIELLE CURTIS
dcurtis@fosters.com

ROCHESTER—Sarah McGrail likes horseback riding, swimming, and canoeing.

It’s not Sarah’s activities that make her special — it is enjoying them despite her lifelong battle with cerebral palsy and epilepsy, caused from being born at only 24 weeks, weighing only one pound, six and a half ounces.

The local fourth grader from East Rochester School, 9, was honored for her bravery last month by the Council for Children and Adolescents with Chronic Health Conditions (CCACHC), naming her a “Champion Among Children.

The CCACHC is a New Hampshire advisory and advocacy group that addresses issues that impact the lives of children with chronic illnesses and their families.

The award recognizes young people who inspire others with their resiliency, optimism and determination to live normal lives.

For those who know Sarah, that description fits to a tee.

“Because of cerebral palsy she has more physical limitations than other kids, but she so does not let it affect her,” said Sarah’s nominator for the award, Astrid Wielens, founder of Zebra Crossings, who provides monthly programming for local kids with chronic illnesses and conditions.

“She tries everything and if she needs help, she asks for it. She is so kind and supportive of the other kids.”

Sarah has had her share of challenges in her young life. Being born so young, she spent the first four and a half months of her life in various hospitals in both Boston and New Hampshire. By the time her due date came around, Sarah had already undergone two surgeries to ensure her underdeveloped eyes did not leave her permanently blind.

She was on a ventilator for 10 weeks after her birth, and was released from the hospital with a device to monitor her breathing and her oxygen when necessary.

Just last year, Sarah suffered two seizures, demonstrating she had developed epilepsy, which is more common for children born premature.

Bleeds in her young brain have affected her movement on her left side, but today Sarah only wears a small brace on her left leg to help her walk.

“Considering what we could be dealing with a baby born at 24 weeks, we’re lucky,” said Sarah’s mother, Loretta McGrail. “She was our long-awaited miracle.”

Ask Sarah today if her cerebral palsy affects her on a daily basis and she’ll say no, an assertion that her mother agrees with.    Read more…