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I Also Love To Garden

Noah Trembly struggles for independence

Noah's face turns red and his blue eyes bulge, his features distorted by anger. His body turns and twitches, ready to break the seatbelt off his wheelchair. A few moments earlier, Noah waited in the Kroger supermarket parking lot for his aide to bring his van to a disabled parking spot. A shiny red sedan pulled in, stopping inches from Noah's hanging feet. By the time Noah's aide, pulled up, Noah was chasing the three locals who stole his parking space. He swerved all over the place to get in front of the people, but they didn't give Noah the time of day. They stopped for a second to look, but didn't say anything. Puzzled, they continued their slow walk towards the automatic doors. Noah now stared back at his aide Mandy; he looks like he is panicking, but he is raging.

Noah Trembly has to deal with these kinds of problems often. He was born with cerebral palsy and seems far older than his 33 years. He moves through life with the help of an automatic wheelchair and is able to speak only through his communication board — a computerized voice device that speaks what Noah types. He enjoys cooking, gardening, spending time outdoors with close friends and dating women. He enjoys going out to bars, and according to Noah, drinking helps him sleep.

Noah Trembly and his aid Terra Hart look over Noah's garden in Athens, Ohio, in late October 2010. "It's autumn, the tomatoes are green", Noah types on his communication board. Terra worked as Noah's day aid for six months.

Noah Trembly and his aide Terra Hart look over Noah's garden in Athens, Ohio, in late October 2010. "It's autumn, the tomatoes are green," Noah types on his communication board. Terra worked as Noah's day aide for six months.

Listen to Noah talk about his life.

On Easter morning Noah wakes up around 10 a.m. He was out drinking the night away and the bartenders let him stay after closing time. Naked in his wheelchair, Noah goes to the kitchen and asks for a glass of water before being put back into bed. He wakes up two hours later, gets help dressing, and waits for his sister to come pick him up and drive him to his hometown, Lower Salem, Ohio.

Noah moved to Athens, about an hour's drive east, in 2007. His parents, Ann and Mike Trembly, talk about how difficult it is for the people to accept a disabled young man with the desire to live away from home.

Noah's new communication board is a computerized voice synthesizer that speaks the sentences Noah types with a reflective dot on his forehead. The newest version has a different voice than the last one and his parents cannot stop giggling at the unfamiliar sound of their son. Getting money for the board was a protracted and tough fight with the state. His mother's eyes go wide as she remembers all the individuals that got in the way of Noah's independence: local and state institutions, well meaning but misguided neighbors, uninformed strangers.

Listen to Noah's mother and sister talk about life with Noah.

Ten years ago when he rented his first apartment in Marietta, Noah got to live alone — with aides working in shifts, constantly monitoring him around the clock. The first 24 years of his life, Noah was cared for by his parents, two sisters and part-time professional aides. Living completely alone is unknown for Noah — constantly dependent on another person, never leaving, always breathing his air.

Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term for different conditions that cause physical disability in human development. Noah's condition is non-progressive and it does not affect his mental abilities. He is diagnosed as a quadriplegic with Cerebral Palsy. Noah's case is unusual because he has some control over his arms that allows him to use computers with a specially designed joystick.

The Trembly family had to apply to government programs in order to help Noah get his wheelchair, special van, communication board and the software he needs to work on his art. His parents describe the tedious process with reluctance. Ann said after putting Noah to bed as a child, she would study law books to help learn how to help advocate for him. Noah has picked up his mother’s tenacity.

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