Aleah Cady, Staff Writer
Mackenzie Green is a first-year student at Wingate University, from Asheville, North Carolina, a member of Alpha Omicron Pi, and is majoring in human services. She loves her sorority, spending time with friends, and helping others.
She also was born with a genetic disorder called Osteogenesis imperfecta, an extremely rare condition which causes the bones to be brittle and break easily. Osteogenesis imperfecta has caused Mackenzie to have to use a wheelchair for most of her life.
As a baby, Mackenzie’s mother suspected that something was wrong. When Mackenzie’s legs were curled up or bended, it caused her great pain. Her mother took her to the doctor, originally believing that Mackenzie may have a form of dwarfism.
However, after testing, it was found that Mackenzie had a genetic disorder. As a result of Osteogenesis imperfecta, Mackenzie had broken ribs and legs when she was born, and has broken over 100 bones in her life. She has also had twenty-one surgeries, and has another one coming up in December.
“Middle and high school were really hard, I had a hard time making friends and I often felt judged.” Mackenzie said. “People look at you differently.” However, she said that college has been different, and an eye-opening experience for her.“I joined Alpha Omicron Pi and I really love the relationship I have with my sisters. I’ve made a lot of great friends.”
Although she was not able to play most sports in high school, Mackenzie was a cheerleader and this was something that impacted her outlook on life. “I love to make people smile, and inspire them to do anything they put their mind to.”
Mackenzie wanted to give special thanks to her best friend in college, Madison Oak. “She’s been through so much with me and I’ve never had a friend like her before. She’s always there to help and I know I can always depend on her.”
“Mackenzie is one of the most hardworking and persistent people I know.” Madison said. “She has an absolute heart of gold and always goes above and beyond for everyone else, which truly says a lot about her character.”
Madison Laney, who serves as Mackenzie’s ‘big sister’ in their sorority, also spoke to me about her friendship with Mackenzie. “From the moment she joined Alpha Omicron Pi, I knew that I wanted her as my little. She has the brightest personality and outlook on life.”
Another experience that really impacted Mackenzie since the start of college was a generous action from the members of Kappa Alpha Order, a fraternity whose philanthropy is the Muscular Dystrophy Association. In October, the boys from K.A. built Mackenzie a ramp to give her easier access to the on-campus apartments. “It was so eye opening and it really helped to accommodate me. It touched me and my family’s hearts that someone would do something so nice for me.”
One night at a Halloween mixer held at a haunted trail, Mackenzie was faced with being somewhere that was not handicap accessible. “I went through two ticket booths and paid money to go through the trail. I was in the trail with my sisters, and the owner came up and shined a flashlight in my face, asking to escort me out. I was told I would receive a refund, but it was still disappointing.”
A member of K.A, Gage Sumrall, approached Mackenzie and the owner to ask what was going on; he quickly defended Mackenzie and tried to find a solution. “Gage took up for me and it really meant a lot.” Mackenzie also would like to thank Domenico Napolitano for helping with her ramp. “They have been so kind to me.” she said.
“She’s so caring, friendly, and joyful. She’s always fun to be around and she’ll do whatever she can to make someone happy.” Gage Sumrall said about Mackenzie.
When she’s not participating in sorority events or spending time with friends, Mackenzie is working hard for her major, human services. Her career goal is to become a D.S.S. social worker. “I just want to give back to children. I love kids.”
She also participates in Delight Ministries, and is very strong in her faith. “Religion has helped me a lot with what I go through. I’m very faithful, even though I had a hard childhood, breaking bone after bone, God always kept me going.”
“I do have an I.E.P, which is an Individualized Education Program.” Mackenzie said, speaking about her experience at college. “My teachers know I have a chronic disability. The I.E.P. gives me extra time to do my work and get to class, but I normally don’t depend on it. I use a schedule to plan my day and I always leave 15 minutes early for class. My wheelchair is electric, and I always want to be prepared just in case. I have a pretty easy time getting around campus. The only building I struggle to get to is Burris. The doors are big and heavy, so I have to go in the back way. But I’ve learned to work around things, everywhere else I can access easily.”
“People think that just because I’m in a wheelchair, I can’t do things.” Mackenzie said. “I drive, I get myself to class, I am completely independent and do things on my own. The only thing I can’t do is walk. People are often mistaken and think that I’m paralyzed. They don’t understand my disorder and that it can happen to anyone. I am capable of anything.”
One problem Mackenzie mentioned is that she worries about finding a job. “I don’t think people understand how capable I am and how much my wheelchair allows me to move. I definitely worry about finding a job in the future, and I wish more people understood that.”
I asked Mackenzie what changes she wanted to see in the world. She said she wants to live in a world where there is no more hurt, and where people with her condition don’t have to experience so much pain. She also wants to be able to not feel judged, and for people to have a better understanding of wheelchair users, and their capabilities.
Mackenzie wants people to know that no matter what struggles they go through, they should keep their head up, and never give up. “There’s some days I don’t want to get up out of bed, but I get past it. I live by the saying ‘Never give up, never back down’. You’re going to have struggles in a wheelchair. You have to keep faith in confidence to get you through it.”
Edited by: Brea Childs
Photo or Photos submitted by Mackenzie Green