Angela: Spinal Muscular Atrophy
At 16 months of age, Angela Wrigglesworth was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, a progressive motor neuron disease that causes weakness in the arms, legs and torso. This prevented her from walking and she began using a wheelchair at the age of 5 years. Due to her condition, Angela began to suffer from severe scoliosis, which became threatening to her internal organs. She was admitted to the TIRR Memorial Hermann Pediatric Rehabilitation Program during the summer of 1986 at the age of 9. Angela was to receive a spinal fusion surgery, a two-step procedure that involved fusing vertebrae together so they heal into a single, solid bone.
Angela was a patient at TIRR Memorial Hermann for one month, in order to learn to function following surgery. The focus of her therapy was on her respiratory care and on breathing treatments, physical therapy and occupational therapy. During her stay, the staff and therapists gave her the care and security she needed. Angela returned home and was able to return to school by October of that year. She continued to have her annual follow-ups at the TIRR Memorial Hermann Outpatient Medical Clinic.
As Angela grew up, her parents instilled in her an independent attitude, which she has maintained throughout her subsequent life. She was able to attend high school and graduated at the top of her class. She went on to pursue a degree in elementary education at Texas A&M University. During her college career, Angela became the first student in a wheelchair to be in a sorority. This caused all the sorority houses to become wheelchair accessible, and as part of the Parking and Transit Student Advisory Board, she advocated for better accessibility throughout the entire Texas A&M campus. In 2000, Angela became an elementary school teacher and is currently teaching fourth grade at Klenk Elementary School in Houston, where she received the Teacher of the Year award in 2012.
In addition to her passion for educating young minds, Angela is also very active in the community. She started competing in pageants in 2004, won the Ms. Wheelchair Texas pageant that year and was the third runner up in Ms. Wheelchair America in 2005. That same year, Angela went on to become one of the founders of the Ms. Wheelchair Texas Foundation, where she is very actively involved in encouraging, inspiring and advocating for other women with disabilities as well as educating the public about who they are what they are capable of doing. Her concept for this event is to celebrate and honor women who have made a difference in other people’s lives, redefining beauty as “not being measured by the number of heads you turn but by the number of hearts you touch.”