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Xander Cipl, 15, lives with achondroplasia, or short stature. To his mother and head cheerleader Gilda Rosskamp, 53, he will always be her Alexander the Great.
Guild:Alexander came early at 30 weeks. Mum told me, 'His members his... he looks a little stocky' and we argued. No, not my baby; He is fine. A nurse found out when he was three months old.
There are potential complications of achondroplasia, and we have them all, including hydrocephalus [which creates pressure on the brain], sleep apnea, and spinal stenosis [which can cause numbness and difficulty walking]. Xander has already had 12 surgeries and the next one will shave off parts of his vertebrae. I ask him: "Are you scared?" and he shrugs and says "No. I'm scared ofheights.” He just survives; He knows there are always people dealing with worse things.
When he started school I thought the worst was over and I opened a shop but had to close it. He denied the necessary care and time for consultations and surgeries and did not handle the pressure well. The decision to become her full-time caregivers has made us so much happier.
He's a joker - I ask 'Are you hungry?' and he says 'My name is Alexander' - and he's always one of the most outgoing people at the short-statured Australia convention we go to every year. We have really honest conversations there.
I make sure there is a ladder in every room and let him take care of things. One time he forgot his key and couldn't reach our building's doorbell, so he climbed into the lunch box he had placed on top of his school bag and used a ruler to ring the doorbell. I was impressed. He taps it on the head and says, "Big Brain".
Xander is always very correct. He rejects me if I don't keep both hands on the steering wheel while driving. And if I'm in the middle of the street before I put my seatbelt on - well, I'm horrible.
It's getting less frequent now, but Xander still lets me pet him sometimes. I took him to a funk band in Marrickville [in Sydney] with some of my friends a few years ago. I thought he'd get bored and we'd go first, but when we got there he said, 'Come on, Mom. I know you want to dance and I know you want to dance with me!” We were the last to leave.
"I ask him, 'Are you scared?' and he shrugs and says, 'No. I'm afraid of heights.'"
We just ignore people looking at us; Alexander had always been able to ignore that kind of attention. He also has a very protective circle around him: I don't want to be the kid trying to intimidate him. Sadly though, we live in a world where there are still people who are ignorant and sometimes say stupid things. We moved so he could go to a good school. Where we live most people have their heads screwed the right way.
I think fast, talk fast and walk fast. My mother always told me to go slower and I think about it when I walk down the street and realize I'm right in front of Alexandre. I have to remember that for every step I take, he has to take two and a half steps. I'm good at speeding up - and he's good at slowing me down.
Despite all the medical adversities, Alexandre achieves his goals: he plays sports, does theater and has a job. He is becoming a very independent person and I am getting my independence back too. We are together on this battlefield. All my strength comes from him. He is my Alexander the Great.
Alexandre:Mom and Dad split up when I was a year old. They support me through things together, but we don't live together. But we are a family: Mom, Dad, Grandma and me. I usually call Mom "Gilda" because when I call her "Mom" she doesn't hear me; however, she responds to "Gilda". We yell and argue a lot, usually about simple things that shouldn't be discussed, like homework and bedtime, but we love each other. If she tells me to do something, I'll probably do it. And I always keep my promises.
I always have to fix them. She says, "That was five days ago," and I say, "Actually, it was six." Sometimes she doesn't put both hands on the steering wheel while driving or glances quickly at her cell phone. She steals all my chocolate.
When I start something, I try to finish it before moving on to the next one. Mom starts one thing a little bit and then starts something else. But she clears things up. He hits like a sledgehammer. She always tries to help me get what I need.
She got one of her friends to build this perfect custom bike for me and now she's turning it into an e-bike. Another friend has a small coffee shop and I recently got a job there. Mom gave me gymnastic steps so I could stand at the register and do the dishes. I fold boxes, stack the fridge, and clean tables and floors. Everything worked out.
Mom is very supportive and loving. I had wanted a dog for years, so she got me Olive [a 16-year-old Miniature Pinscher]. We babysit Olive for Mom's friend; so I was able to keep them as a reward after my double knee surgery in 2020. I adored Olive; She was nice and comfortable to sleep on. However, she has just passed away and I am very sad about it.
I went to the hospital so many times. I hate the food, especially the chicken - it tastes like nothing and I'm sick of it - but I can eat it in bed. And Mom brings me hot cocoa from Starbucks.
I always felt like other kids; I mean, I've always felt the same. What is normal? When I try to pick something up, I can't: that sums it up. When people look at me, I just look away.
“I always felt like other kids; I mean, I've always felt the same. What is normal? When I try to pick something tall, I can't: that sums it up.”
When I started school, my backpack was about my size; When I got tired, Mom would just put me in it and carry me. She's always helped me get what I need at school - like the right-sized chair, a low locker, and stepladders in the bathrooms. My young children's school [Taverners Hill in Petersham in Sydney] even turned down the water cooler for me.
Mom throws me the best parties. I once wanted a pokemon party. She and a friend dressed in Pokemon onesies and we threw balls at them. Another time we drove to Darling Harbor and went bowling. I had to walk a lot - my friends were running everywhere, but I get tired easily. When we got home for the night, I left her with Mom and went straight to bed. Everyone has a lot of fun at my birthday parties – except me. We decided that small parties are better.
i like to be funny i would like to be an artist. Mum took me to acting classes at the Australian Theater for Young People in The Rocks, which I love. One of the advantages of dwarfism is that everyone remembers me.
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