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WDAY: The News Leader

Published January 30, 2014, 07:24 PM

Spending a day in her chair

Fargo, N.D. (WDAY TV) -In Hawley, Minn. a high school junior has temporarily stepped into the role as teacher.

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY

Fargo, N.D. (WDAY TV) -In Hawley, Minn. a high school junior has temporarily stepped into the role as teacher.

16-year-old Carissa Murphy gets around school in a wheelchair.

She lives with a tough disease called "Friedrich's Ataxia," which attacks her muscles.

When her friends asked her what life is like, she decided to show them.

Carissa Murphy, diagnosed with Fredrich’s Ataxia: “Actually, it gets worse as times goes on.”

Carissa Murphy took this opportunity by storm, talking with Hawley senior high students today about her Fredericks Ataxia and life in the wheelchair as a teenager.

Murphy: “I continue to lose muscle in my legs constantly as time goes on, I will not be able to stop it.”

All this week, students in Hawley have been taking the day to get around school in a wheelchair.

Sophomore Andy Westhoff did.

Andy Westhoff, Hawley sophomore: “It is a lot more challenging that I thought. I thought it would be easier. It is a lot more challenging.”

Let's be honest, there is no way any of them can experience what life is like for Carissa who every morning.

Murphy: “I wake up at 5:30 every morning.”

Just to get dressed which for her.

“An hour and a half to get dressed.”

And another hour just to put on makeup. But this week, her friends are learning what obstacles and problems develop when getting around in a wheelchair.

Murphy: “They asked me what I would do if I wasn't in a wheelchair for a day. I miss Walking, running, jumping and skipping.”

And Carissa talked about daily activities you and I take for granted. Going through snow and ice with a wheelchair or making her way through a restaurant or crowded department store.

Haley, Nicholson, Hawley student: “I have hit the doorways a lot and my locker. Everyone should know how hard it is they don't pay attention what you really have to do.”

No one can sit in a wheelchair for a day and not appreciate what it must be like for Carissa who wants no pity or people feeling sorry for her.

Mike Martin, Hawley principal: “It has been a good experience for our school personnel and also our students. For the awareness created. Carissa is courageous and we are the benefactors of that.”

Understanding is good enough.

School officials say the project was also a good test of the school's ADA requirements.

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