Shawn DeCloedt was awakened in the middle of the night by his wife anxiously stirring beside him. She was just over seven months pregnant—the birth of their baby was still eight weeks away—but she could feel that something was not right. The baby, she told him, had stopped moving.
After a night spent searching for answers and remedies on the internet, they went in for a scheduled doctor’s appointment. She was immediately rushed to the operating room, where doctors delivered the baby on the spot.
Remembering it now, Shawn says the birth of his son Trevor had none of the warmth or positive excitement that usually comes with bringing a new life into the world.
“It wasn’t like ‘Oh, the baby’s coming’—it was like, ‘Oh my god.’”
“Nobody Was Telling Us What Was Going On”
The worst part, he remembers, is that the doctors were not telling them anything. When Trevor emerged completely bare of oxygen reserves, so premature that he was still covered with downy hair, his face marked by the umbilical cord that had been wrapped around his head, and proceeded to stop breathing and turn blue within a few minutes, his parents didn’t know what it would mean for their child’s long-term health. They only knew that something was wrong.
“The most frightening thing was the lack of information. Nobody was telling us what was going on.”
That trend of not being told anything continued into Trevor’s first months and years of life.
Determination to Be Fine
As Trevor neared his first birthday, his parents noticed that he consistently favored his right side. His left side was nearly motionless, and he would consistently drool out of the left side of his mouth. But when they brought up these things to their pediatrician, their concerns were brushed off. Shawn says they were treated like overreactive first-time parents, told things like “babies drool—it’s normal.”
One day, though, Trevor went into a spastic episode. Their neurologist examined him and immediately diagnosed Trevor with spastic cerebral palsy. Finally, Trevor’s parents got some solid information: that their son would never walk or talk.
What the doctors didn’t know is that Shawn himself had weathered a severe spinal injury only a few years previous. The injury had resulted in his dismissal from the police academy, crushing his dream of joining the police force. Excruciating pain and deep depression seemed to be the direction of his life, until Shawn’s chiropractor referred him to a surgeon in the Los Angeles area. He woke up out of the surgery with no pain for the first time in months. Within 6 weeks, he was not only bicycling to his weekly physical therapy appointment, but passed the academy’s physical agility test without even training for it.
So when he was told Trevor’s bleak diagnosis, Shawn was undaunted. He had the confidence that comes with the determination to find the right person who can help you heal.
“I just looked at Trevor’s mom and said ‘We were hand-picked for him. He’s going to be fine and we’re going to be fine.’ We never had that attitude that he’s handicapped in any way. We never let them tell us anything like that.”
A Miracle at Age One
The next stage in Trevor’s remarkable journey came from a chiropractor named Dr. Drew Hall. Shawn had heard of Dr. Hall’s transformative work with cerebral palsy patients, and decided that they had nothing to lose by taking baby Trevor for a visit.
At their first appointment, Dr. Hall adjusted just two of Trevor’s neck vertebrae; Shawn remembers thinking that it seemed like an awfully light adjustment—how could it have made much difference? But on the drive back to Los Angeles, Shawn looked in the rearview mirror and saw something amazing: Trevor was holding his bottle with his left hand, the side that before had been essentially paralyzed.
“He was looking at it like ‘Wow,’” Shawn recalls, laughing. “That day he walked and started talking—‘Mama’ and ‘Dada,’ simple stuff. But it started that night. Honestly, had I not witnessed it, I don’t know if I would believe that it came from the chiropractic.”
Becoming a Champion
Flash forward ten years to a dirt track in Simi Valley, Ca. Gouged by deep V-shaped pits and spiked with sandy peaks, the track is crowded with pint-sized riders swaddled in colorful protective gear. They wear giant helmets that emphasize the tiny bikes they use to leap out of the pits and show off their midair technique.
Somewhere among those riders is Trevor DeCloedt, who has loved being on the seat of a bike since his dad taught him to ride at age four. In the past several years, he’s played ice hockey, basketball and soccer, but his greatest love and greatest talent comes on two wheels.
In the beginning, certain adjustments had to be made for Trevor’s bike. One of the cranks was made shorter than the other, to accommodate the stiffness in his left knee. His seat was higher than average to help him balance. He receives regular chiropractic adjustments and uses a kinesiology tape to help keep his CP symptoms in check. But over time, bike riding has served to improve his symptoms, including balance and coordination.
And with an ever-growing number of trophies on the shelf, it can’t help but strengthen his confidence.
“With any sport you have moments of discouragement and self-doubt,” Trevor says, “but I always try my hardest. …At the end of the day, as long as you are giving it your all and having fun, you will continue to improve and overcome your obstacles. I like to say as long as I try, it’s all about having fun.”
“Don’t Give Up and Keep On Trying”
Now, at age fourteen, Trevor travels all over the country for BMX competitions. He currently ranks 15th in the state of California for his age group. He has his sights set on the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo, where he plans to compete in velodrome racing (a type of road bike without brakes). He logs up to 40 miles per day on his road bike, and rides twice a week with his team Encino Velo team. He also practices on local trails with his mountain bike team in Simi Valley. But he always returns to the BMX track to keep his skills sharp for solo competitions.
Outside of his close friends and family, not many people are aware at this point that Trevor has a disability. When they do find out, he says, he sometimes has to be very patient with their reactions—they might reach out to touch his left side and ask “Can you feel that?”
But his athletic ambitions are much greater than the occasional frustrations that come with having CP. Trevor says he is inspired by Olympians and Paralympians he’s met at the track, as well as by close friends who, like him, don’t let their physical disabilities get in the way of their dreams.
His advice to others in the cerebral palsy community is along the same lines:
“Don’t give up and keep on trying,” he encourages. “I try my hardest and don’t let (CP) get in the way.”