The road is gold: Overcoming challenges on my journey with SMA
This is Ira Walker’s story:
Throughout 38 years of life, I’ve traveled, met extraordinary individuals, seen more than 20 operas, been the recipient of great guidance, and occasionally received peculiar advice. I was paid as a movie extra, discovered a love of seafood, became a sports aficionado — even met Mickey Mouse a handful of times! I’ve gained a healthy sense of humor and figured out how to be the coolest person in the room.
Undoubtedly, those 38 years have brought me to the place I needed to be, where I know who I am and what is most important: That place is love!
My life began in St. Louis. I was born with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and a big personality.
In adolescence, my joy in the performing arts led me to join the school band as a clarinetist and percussionist. My fascination with understanding the depth of human emotion led me to major in psychology at the University of Missouri. My strong sense of curiosity propelled me to put more than 100,000 miles on my modified van through my exploration of our nation. My desire for independence and need to consistently evolve led me to a successful career in healthcare in corporate America.
How, you ask, could an individual impacted by a neurological condition like SMA hold a mindset of optimism and determination?
The contemporary poet, songwriter, and southern gentleman, Mr. Dierks Bentley, stated in the song “Gold”: “It ain’t a smooth ride, life, it’s a winding road/ Yeah, it might be gravel, but it feels like gold.”
Living a life with SMA hasn’t always been easy, but I’ve been blessed by a plethora of outstanding individuals who continuously pushed and motivated me to not live with a mindset that focuses on the challenges I face. These individuals helped encourage me to see the obstacles in my life only as opportunities to adapt and overcome. They urged me to always hold a can-do mentality and see the gold in my life. They demonstrated, reciprocated, and extended love.
As a new Floridian, I now have a mission to enjoy the very best of life during my next 38 years. I’ve set expectations on myself to be a carrier of peace, tolerance, patience, and of course, love. I will allow the examples of humility, courage, and selflessness I see daily in the heroes in my life to help me grow into the man and leader I hope to be — for a community that’s on the winding road to love.
In recognition of Spinal Muscular Atrophy Awareness Month in August, the SMA Community Spotlight campaign features a series of stories highlighting the real-life experiences of people affected by SMA, written in their own words. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more stories like this, using the hashtag #SMASpotlight, or read the full series.