BACKGROUND

This is from birth (4-82) to graduation (6-04)

I am Melissa Lynn Cheatwood, AKA "ICE PRINCESS." I have blonde hair, blue eyes, and I am 5 ft. tall. I had a slow start at life; I was born on Easter Sunday 4-11-82 at Hialeah Hospital in Miami, Fla. I was 2 1/2 months premature, and much to my mother's happiness of having a girl, she was unaware of all the health problems I was born with. I was not breathing when I was born, and the nurses rushed me to the Newborn ICU where I lived for 2 months before I got to go home. While in the NICU, I was receiving 85% oxygen on a ventilator and a respirator. I had jaundice and had to wear those eye pads when they would put the bilirubin lamp on me which helped to get rid of the jaundice. I was unable to wear a diaper or clothes at first because the extra weight put too much pressure on my little 4 pound body. The doctors and specialist held very little hope for me to survive this premature birth. However, with my mother, father, and brother Kyle at my incubator side, I was a fighter and fought all the way. Although they could not hold me until I was 1 month old, they could pat me ever so gently, and they bought me a pink musical kitty cat which sat on top of my incubator as only sterile items could go inside. They had to change clothes and scrub before they were allowed into the NICU. Once I got up to 5 pounds and was strong enough, I was able to go home. However, after only being home for 1 month, I had to return to the ICU with double pneumonia. I was in the ICU for 2 weeks and had an oxygen tent over my crib. When I came home they had to keep the house sterile and at that point, they had decided that I had so many problems with my little lungs that they made our home and car smoke-free. My parents didn't smoke, but they had friends that did, and they all understood that they had to keep my environment smoke-free if I was to get better.

My milestones; I sat up at age 1 year old, crawled at 18 months, and did not walk until I was 2 years old. As you can see, I had a rough start. At age 1 year old, I got pneumonia once again. I had no speech at 2 years old, so the doctors had me evaluated at Miami Children's Hospital where for the first time my parents heard that their beautiful baby girl had mental retardation. The doctors' office put them in touch with the school system in Miami so they could get me into special education pre-school classes. At speech therapy in school the pathologist could not get me to use my voice to produce speech. So she started teaching me to use sign language. While using sign language, the pathologist still hung onto the hope of me producing sounds for speech. After a year of using sign language, I started making sounds. It was at that point that they dropped the sign language and encouraged the speech. This was while attending Tropical Elementary in Miami under the teacher of Delores Mendoza and speech pathologist Mrs. Kaplan. From age 18 months old to about 10 years old, I had breath holding spells where I would literally hold my breath until I turned blue and eventually passed out. I had several cat scans to check for seizure activity. There were some seizures, but it was something that I outgrew.

At age 5 years old in 1987 me and my family moved to Virginia Beach, VA as my father, Mike, was promoted in his business and that brought us there. I continued in special education classes, and they only taught me functional words (hot, cold, danger & etc.) It wasn't until I was in Princess Anne Middle School with my teacher Andrea Gengler (Deidre Hall's twin sister) that I learned more than functional speech. Andrea bought 'Hooked-on-Phonics' and taught me to read for enjoyment. Although I can read, it is not at my age level of 20 years old. Rather, I read more at the kindergarten level.

I was also born with an eating disorder which did not appear until I was about 8 years old. I am doing great with my weight now, only have those last 5 to 8 pounds to take off. It has been a long and hard road. Three years ago I was at the top of my weight at 175 pounds-- now I am 139!!!! I am working with a genetic dietician from Children's Hospital. My family is very pleased with my progress. Considering that I was not expected to live, I have come a long way.

School; I graduated from Ocean Lakes High School in Va. Bch, Va in 6-04. I received a special diploma with a recognition for my Honor Roll status for the last 2 years of High School!!!!!!!!!!!! After my graduation we moved to Texas as my grandfather was seriously ill. My parents and I lived on a sailboat and we sailed from the Chesapeake Bay in Va. to the Gulf Coast in Texas. Since moving to Texas my grandfather passed away and my mom has become "visually impaired". She can still watch me skate but has to use a special eye scope.

Sports; roller-blading, swimming, basketball, volleyball, billiards, bowling and of course ICE SKATING.

Hobbies; I love to fish and go dolphin watching. My parents call me "Dolphin Girl". I also recently discovered ceramics with my grandfather in Texas. I love to paint, and I have a pretty steady hand for it. I also like to go bike riding at the State Park in town and see all the small wild animals (such as squirrels, birds).

Jobs; my high school class has various job sites where the students work to see where they would like to work upon graduation. I work at Wal-Mart, the Virginia Marine Science Museum as a hostess, Food Lion, Geico and other sites. I also volunteer in the youth room of the Princess Anne Recreation Center.

Goals; since mastering SS10 my goals are to continue working on all my new jumps, spins, combinations, moves in the field and dance.