When the alarm clock goes off, Evan Trease begins his morning routine.
But unlike other students who can jump up and get going quickly, his routine takes a bit longer.
In fact, it can take from 45 minutes to two hours for him to get ready. The biggest part is taking a shower and putting on his leg braces.
Trease is a senior psychology major undergoing his final semester here at the W. He spends much of his day rolling from place to place on campus in his wheelchair, chatting with students and professors and taking care of class assignments.
He is known by most students on campus and participates in whatever activities he can. He suffers from spastic cerebral palsy, but he does not let the condition stop him from doing what he wants.
When Trease was 11 weeks old, he suffered from a quarter-sized hole in his heart in the form of a ventricular septal defect. It caused him to lose oxygen and go into cardiac arrest. The lack of oxygen to his brain directly caused the cerebral palsy.
Spastic cerebral palsy is a neuromuscular disorder that causes the affected muscles to continuously contract, while the opposite muscles are usually weaker. Basically, there is no push and pull between the muscles, only one side overpowering the other.
Trease has moderate-to-severe cerebral palsy, but surprisingly he is able to stay more active than most.
“It’s not really a progressive disease if you work, if you exercise and stuff to keep your muscles from atrophying,” he noted.
He considers himself lucky to have only been affected physically and not mentally. He attended community college before transferring to MUW, and he enjoys the mental challenge of college classes.
Trease attacks his disability much like a problem to be solved. There is a lot of planning that goes into each day, with just getting ready each morning requiring meticulous movements and concentration.
“I do it all by myself. It’s taken a good long time to learn how to do it all by myself,” he said when asked how much help he needs getting ready every day.
While Trease has been able to overcome many of his physical challenges, he has less control over other areas of his daily life.
The biggest problems he faces are his surroundings. It isn’t always convenient to move around in campus buildings, and even something as simple as opening the door to a bathroom can present a problem for him.
Trease acknowledged he can transfer from his wheelchair to a walker, but other students may be completely wheelchair bound. He said he hopes that when he leaves, the campus will be much more wheelchair friendly. The W campus has improved its accessibility to those who are handicapped. The BSU has added ramps, new automatic doors have been installed in certain buildings, and the Wesley Foundation has put in an elevator to help people reach the second floor.
Trease has tried to help move the upgrades along.
“I’m trying to make it better. I mean, when I got here, outside of Kincannon, there wasn’t a ramp out there going over to Cromwell. I had to contact the city and had them put it in.”
Another obstacle that Trease must wrestle with on a regular basis is the elevator in Cromwell Hall. He struggles with the door because it closes quickly and erratically. He has to position his chair to take the door’s impact where it will cause the least amount of damage to the chair, which it will eventually break.
A big help to overcome environmental obstacles is the assistance that other people offer him. Trease notes that being a social person has really helped him. Also, he is not afraid of asking strangers for help.
Trease also had some advice for disabled students, both present and future.
“Meet Sirena Cantrell. Get to know her. She will be your advocate if you have any problems,” he said. “This campus, they get all your problems done faster than anybody else’s pretty much. They’ll pretty much bend over backwards to help you.”
As graduation looms, Trease looks to the future with excitement. Every new day presents its own set of obstacles, but he sees them as a challenge to be conquered as he lives life on his own terms.