Wantuck lets cerebral palsy blend into his personality
To some Marquette students, Bill Wantuck isn’t any more than a smiling face behind the front desk of Cobeen Hall. But to those who know him, he’s a caring friend with a unique condition that he wears on his sleeve.
“I pretty much go about my day as a normal person,” said Wantuck, a junior in the college of arts and sciences majoring in psychology. “If it wasn’t for my limp I guarantee you wouldn’t even notice I have cerebral palsy.”
But he does have class two cerebral palsy, a cognitive disability that affects development in the motor functions of the brain. He has a working definition for his disability that he tells people when they ask him about his limp.
“What I basically tell my friends who don’t really understand all that is that my bones are growing faster than my muscles so my muscles are constantly tight,” he said “That’s not exactly what it is but that’s how I explain it to people.”
Growing up with CP, Wantuck said he thrived because of how his mom raised him.
“My mom didn’t pull the whole stereotypical ‘you’re special,’” he said. “She treated me like I was a normal kid, there was nothing wrong with me in any way, shape or form. I grew up thinking there was nothing wrong with me.”
Wantuck also credited his comfort level to the kids he attended grade school with, who attributed his limp to part of his personality. However, he said high school changed the way he handled and explained his disability.
“High school changed because I actually had to explain it to people,” he said. “By the time I got to high school, I decided I was going to own it and I was going to make it into something everyone can relate to.”
All that changed at Marquette for Wantuck. He said people were much more accepting and wanted to learn more about his condition.
“You get people from different backgrounds,” he said. “Some people knew what cerebral palsy was, they had a friend, they had a neighbor so it was easier to explain it to them…it was something to learn about rather than something they didn’t understand. They wanted to understand.”
Wantuck said his friends at Marquette provide a support system for him that make him feel much like his mother did as a child: like a completely normal human being. He especially has seen support from his brothers in Marquette’s chapter of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity, which he joined in the spring of his freshman year.
“That was a huge support system, especially inside my pledge class,” he said. “Sometimes it’s a little overbearing, but I’d rather it be overbearing than nothing at all.”
One of those friends is fellow Kappa Sigma and Cobeen desk receptionist Michael Thiede. Wantuck says Thiede always looks out for him and makes sure he gets home safely.
“Whenever he sees me walking home from Caffrey’s…he puts me on his back and piggy backs me home or walks me home with him. He doesn’t want me to drunkenly stumble or break my leg.”
Thiede says Wantuck inspires him to persevere in life because he’s overcome so many obstacles.
“I’m inspired by how he doesn't let his disability impede him and continues to partake in as much stuff as he can to maintain normality,” Thiede said. “I also enjoy his ability to make a joke out of it and view it in a light hearted manner when he can. ”
Wantuck wouldn’t have it any other way. Asked if he could go back and change anything about his life he said he wouldn’t.
“It would be refreshing to know what it’s like to be a normal person,” he said. “But if you change it, you change me.”