You likely wouldn't bat an eye if we told you that recent UGA grad Carden Wyckoff has interests and desires just like many young adults: graduating college, catching favorite artists at Piedmont Park music festivals and joining her brother in Spartan Races. But when you realize she has muscular dystrophy (specifically a type called fascioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy, also known as FSH or FSHD) you start to understand what an impressive young woman she really is.
Tell us a little bit about FSHD.
FSHD is a degenerative muscular disease that affects primarily the face, shoulder and arm muscles and ends up attacking all smooth muscle in the body. Currently, there is no treatment or cure. Carrying out day-to-day tasks is challenging and takes time. I cannot lift more than five pounds. Walking and using stairs are difficult, and I tire very easily.
What are some ways you give back to the community?
During my tenure at UGA, I volunteered at the Athens Area Humane Society and Athens Regional Hospital. In addition, I am a goodwill ambassador for the FSH Society and a disability rights advocate. At UGA, I lobbied for six curb cuts to be installed on campus, a ramped sidewalk going from a bus stop to the top of North campus and a temporary platform at the UGA Arch to allow all students to partake in the century-long tradition of passing through it.
What is your favorite quote?
"Be the change you wish you see in the world." – Gandhi
Tell us about your rececnt Spartan Race with your brother Spencer.
I piggybacked on my brother all five miles of the race to raise awareness for FSHD. I have never seen a more supportive community in my life. One of the obstacles was to vertically climb a muddy mountain, which was easily 100 feet, with only the assistance of cargo nets and rope. Five supporters surrounded and braced us to assist us all the way up, and once we reached the top, we had a huge standing ovation from other Spartans cheering us on and asking about our cause. It was truly an amazing feeling.
Tell us more about your push to make UGA's Arch more accessible.
In January 2014, Khaled Alsafadi approached me about his dream to make the UGA Arch wheelchair accessible. We launched the "Make UGA's Arch Accessible" Facebook campaign early February, and it went viral on campus. By the end of April, the administration granted the first ever temporary platform the day following commencement so that all students, regardless of their mobility, could partake in the tradition of passing through the Arch. The administration denied a permanent solution, but this has only fueled my passion to keep fighting.
What helps you be your best self?
The nature of my degenerative disease drives me to be my best self. Knowing that I probably won't be able to do something in three months or a year makes me get out of bed in the morning and advocate for change.