Brown, Christy - My left foot

Presentation / Essay (Pre-University), 2000

8 Pages

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Christy Brown was born on the 5th of June in 1932 as one of 23 children of a bricklayer's wife. His birth was a very difficult one and he and his mother had almost died. After his birth his mother was sent away to recover for a few weeks and Christy stayed in the hospital. The first who saw that something was wrong with Christy was his mother when he was about four months old. His head had the habit of falling back whenever she tried to feed him, at the age of six months he was not able to sit without some pillows around him and at twelve months it was the same.

His mother told her husband about her fears and they decided to seek medical advice. Christy was only a little over a year old when he was taken to several doctors and each of them told them that he was a very interesting but hopeless case because he suffered from cerebral palsy. His mother did not want to see him as a cripple like the doctors did. Luckily Christy's mother did not give up - not because of a sense of duty but because of love.

At the age of five Christy still was as helpless as a baby and there was something like a brick wall between Christy and his brothers and sisters and his mother tried to pull it down brick by brick. Christy still could neither speak, nor walk or sit. The only thing that sometimes showed his mother what he felt was a vague smile. He did not show a sign of real intelligence - he was only interested in the toes of his left foot. Nearly all day long he lay on his back in the kitchen or in the garden, helpless, lonely and imprisoned in a world of his own, unable to communicate with others, separated from them as though a glass wall stood between his existence and theirs.

But one day Christy's whole life changed and his mother's faith in him rewarded and her secret fears changed into open triumph. It was on a cold grey December afternoon, the whole family sat around the kitchen fire. Christy's brothers and sisters had to do something for school and Christy was very attracted by a piece of long, yellow chalk. Suddenly he wanted to do what his sister Mona was doing and he reached out and took the piece of chalk out of his sister's hand - with his left foot. He held it between his toes and made a wild sort of scribble with it on the slate. His mother took another piece of Mona's chalk and drew the letter `A' on the floor. Christy tried to copy it several times and suddenly he was able to draw the letter `A'. This letter was the way to his mental freedom.

Christy's mother's next aim was to teach him the whole alphabet and she was sure that Christy would be able to learn it. In the course of time Christy learned how to write his own name and he began to depend more and more on his left foot - it was his main way to communicate. It was the only key to the door of the prison he was in.

Christy was about seven years old when he began to associate with children of his own age with the help of his brothers. They took him with them when they went out to play in the streets, pushing him along in a rusty old go-car. Christy passed some of his best years of his life in that go-car.

Although everyone laughed about his go-car because it was so ugly he loved it because it was his throne and on it he experienced adventures with the others. When people stared at Christy he did not know why and he did not want to think about it because he was happy and he wanted to enjoy this time. Christy even learned swimming in a canal with the help of his brothers Tony and Jim.

But one day Christy's whole life changed because his go-car broke down. He was lost without it and his brothers could no longer take him with them when they went out to play. Suddenly the idea came to his mind that he was different - that something was wrong with him. Christy did not see any sense in his life anymore. He was just ten - a boy who could not walk, speak, feed or dress himself - he was helpless but he had not realized this before. He did not know why he was different from the others he only knew that he could not run around, play football or climb on trees like the others did. Up to this time he had never thought about himself - only sometimes there had come such a feeling that he was not like the others but he did not really care about this - but now Christy began to hate himself and his appearance. After a few weeks Christy got a new car but he nevertheless was not happy anymore. He only went out for very few times a year. He did not communicate very much with the others and was very often depressed.

Christy now was ten and a half and began to sink deeper and deeper into himself. His mother tried to make the happy child he used to be out of him again - but it did not exist anymore. One Christmas Paddy, one of Christy's brothers got coloured paints and a haired brush and because Christy was amazed by them he got the colours. Some days later he tried to paint with them for the very first time. Slowly he began to lose his depression and at this time he painted his best pictures. He had a feeling of pure joy when he was painting, a feeling he had never experienced before.

But one day Christy's mother became ill and was taken to hospital, where a few weeks later she gave birth to her last child. Christy's mother remained ill and rapidly became worse. During this time Christy did not even paint, he had no interest in anything because he feared that his mother could die.

One evening a young girl, Katrina Delahunt, came to Christy. She worked in the hospital and wanted Christy to write a few words to his mother that she could be sure that everything was okay at home. Next time she came she brought some paints, brushes and drawing books along and the good news that Christy's mother would be home soon. Katrina Delahunt came into Christy's life when he needed her most and she was his first dream - girl.

In the course of time Christy began to understand more about himself because he had begun to feel, to think and therefor to know a little more. Painting became his great love not only because it made him so happy but as well because he pleased others with them - for example Katrina. Then a few weeks before Christmas Christy read in a newspaper that there was a painting competition and Christy took part in it because Katrina wanted him to. Next Sunday morning Christy's father went into his room and showed him the newspaper - Christy was the winner of the competition.

Christy lost his heart again: he fell in love with a girl called Jenny who was at his age. She lived a few doors away from his home. Jenny visited Christy for several times and they became really very good friends. One day she even gave him a kiss on his forehead - but from this day on she did not visit him anymore. Christy very often dreamed of Jenny kissing him and felt very melancholy and alone. On his fourteenth birthday he got a card from Jenny but she never came to see him. To hide his heart trouble he painted every day crazy little pictures that had no theme or pattern. Then one day, Christy sat in the back yard and suddenly Jenny appeared. She looked across at him - but it was a look of pity.

From his 15th birthday on Christy knew that he was not a child anymore but he neither was a grown-up. Christy could not run away from himself anymore because therefor he knew he was too old. Everyone around him had something necessary to do, they had interests and activities - but Christy only had his left foot.

Whenever Christy looked around him he saw that everything and everyone was perfect - except him. He asked himself for hundred times why he was different, why he nevertheless showed the same feelings as the others and Christy even wanted to commit suicide. The people always said that he was a marvellous boy because he was able to write with his left foot and told him that he was lucky. But Christy did not want to be anything special he just wanted to be ordinary - he wanted to be like all the other boys at his age. One day Katrina, who now was married, came and asked Christy if he did not want to go to Lourdes - a famous place in France where many pilgrims went. It was said that many ill people got healthy there. For the very first time Christy went away from home for 1 week and there for the very first time he realized how many other people had to suffer even more than he had to. They slept in a convent and on the next day they were brought to the famous Healing Baths. After having been in this water Christy felt as if he was reborn. At home everything was different from Lourdes again because at home everyone except him was normal. For Christy it was sure that, no matter how he might appear on the surface, no matter how he might pretend to others or how much he lied to himself, he would never be happy or at peace with himself as long as he was crippled like this.

Christy was at home from Lourdes for about one week when Dr. Collis, he visited Christy already when he was a little boy, visited him and told him that he would get a special treatment. This was called physiotherapy and Christy had to do special exercises. Suddenly Christy saw that there was some sense in his life. Maybe he would be able to lead quite a normal life, be independent, be able to go out - to be free. Each week Dr. Warnants came to Christy and he had to show the doctor different exercises. The only room where they were able to do this physiotherapy was the kitchen but it was too small either. Therefor Christy's mother had the idea of building a house for Christy in the back garden. It took Christy's father and brothers quite a long time till the house was ready and Christy was able to live there. Now Christy had really broken away from the family because he always was in his house. Then one day Dr. Collis came again and told Christy and his mother that he would fly to London to his sister-in-law who was a well-known specialist in cerebral palsy. In London Christy was investigated by Mrs. Collis and she told Christy that he would make progress but that he therefor had to do lots of hard work over the next few years and that he was not allowed to use his left foot anymore. For Christy this was very hard - it was like locking himself up and throwing the key away. Back in Dublin Dr. Collis told him that there was a Cerebral Palsy Clinic in which he would be treated.

Christy and some other patients went to the clinic by an ambulance. He was the eldest of the patients and seeing all those young and helpless children crawling around on the floor remembered him of his own childhood. He for the very first time realized what he must have looked like when he was a small child. All the crippled children in the clinic were a completely different experience than those in Lourdes because there were only adults. Christy knew what it was like to lie around helplessly and he easily could have pitied them but he did not because he remembered how bitterly a look of pity had hurt him once.

When Christy had been attending the clinic for about one year he saw a girl when he was waiting for the ambulance man to take him into the car and he was immediately attracted by her. When he came into the clinic one Thursday morning he saw her again and in the course of time they began to know each other quite well and became very good friends. Because of all the things he experienced at the clinic Christy was full of ideas and wanted to tell the whole world about his thoughts. But how should he express all those things he wanted to? He was not able to write because he was not allowed to use his left foot and he still was not able to speak any sort of intelligible language outside his family. Therefor he asked his brother Eamonn to write for him. Christy was eighteen when he made the first attempt to write his own autobiography. Up to this time he had only read Dickens and therefor he thought it was his duty to imitate his style of writing. The pages of the manuscript were pilling up and Christy went on dictating and his brother went on writing. Christy felt that he could write a good book - he only needed someone who advised him, who showed him how to write clearly and constructively. Therefor he asked Dr. Collis to teach him how to write a book and some days later Dr. Collis came. He read a few pages of Christy's manuscript and then told him that it was awful because the language he used may have been popular in the reign of Queen Victoria.

In the course of time the clinic became overcrowded and therefor they were going to move to another place and some of the old doctors left the clinic. Christy made quite big progress - he began to speak more and to grunt less and in the course of time he spoke with greater self- confidence. Christy went on learning more and more with the help of Dr. Collis. But the problem was that Christy had never had any real education. The only things he was able to do were to read and to write - but only with his left foot. Christy made a second attempt and tried to write his autobiography again. This version was much better but still too difficult to read for any reader.

Sometimes when he was sitting in his room at night he started thinking of all those girls he could have met, he could have danced with and he could have loved as well. These thoughts were not very easy for him because he was just 22 years old and did not know any other company except books. One evening he felt especially isolated and jealous of his brothers and he only wanted to get rid of his thoughts. He remembered his left foot again, seized a pencil between his first and second left toe and began to write. He felt as if he was a different person - he was happy. But suddenly Dr. Collis came in. He told Christy only to use his left foot when he really had to and that he would not tell Mrs. Collis.

One of Christy's most exciting experiences was the Burl Ives' Concert. At this concert Dr. Collis read it to the audience two chapters of Christy's autobiography.

When the doctor began to read there at first was still a good deal of noise in the audience but in the course of time the whole room went quiet. When the doctor had finished the cheering broke out and suddenly somebody from the audience brought forward a huge bouquet of roses. The doctor took it and gave it to Christy's mother - the woman who had spent her whole love to help her son, who had never given up - not because of a sense of duty but because of love.


Christy Brown was born on June 5th in 1932 as one of 23 children. He at first seemed to be like all other babies but in the course of time his mother recognized that something was wrong with him. From the day when she went for the very first time to a doctor with her son because she was worried about his health her whole life changed because she was told that Christy was a hopeless case and that nothing could be done to improve his condition. To Christy's mother it sounded as if the doctors considered her son not to be worth living. But she did not give up because Christy was like all her other children her own flesh and blood and she wanted to make the best out of this difficult situation.

Without his mother's help Christy Brown would never have been able to do those things he was able to do. His mother was the person who never lost the trust in him, who always tried to encourage him to keep on trying, who spend hours with teaching him although she had many other things to do and she as well tried to establish a relationship between Christy and his sisters and brothers. For them it surely was not easy to live together with there brother who suffered from cerebral palsy. They had to try to understand that it was most important for their mother to get involved with Christy as much as possible to improve his condition, to help him to get the possibility of doing at least one of the most important things in the world: communication. During the first years of his life when Christy was not able to tell anyone what he felt, what he wanted he lived in a prison. There was no way for him to express him because he was not able to speak neither to write anything. Imagine not being able to speaking - you are unable to tell anyone what you feel, what you want! This must be an absolute horror! This was one of the reasons why Christy during the first years of his life did not have any relation to his brothers and sisters. But in the course of time when he began to become interested in his toes his whole situation changed because he was even able to write with them. Surely it was hard work for him and it took him long until he was able to write sentences that were understood by his family but it was worth it because this was the only way to his mental freedom - for the very first time in his life Christy was able to tell his family what he wanted - for the very first time he was able to express his feelings. Now he got into touch with his sisters and brothers. He had his go car that helped him to get around with his brothers and with friends. - It was just such a little go car that his happiness depended on because during this time he was a really happy boy. Now he seemed to be a normal boy - to himself Christy seemed to be ordinary but in reality he was not. But when he was a young boy he never thought about ,,being different" from others because he did not really realize that there were differences beteween him and the others. Maybe he just did not want to see them because he was afraid that then his life would not be like it was. But it is a consequence of getting older, mature that you begin to think about you, your body, your appearance and to speculate why you are the way you are. And Christy did this as well but for him this was a real shock because he realized that he was not like the others - he found out that he was completely different from them. He was not able to run around, to climb on trees - he just sat in his go car, needed someone to carry him with him, who looked after him. Up to this time Christy had enjoyed and loved his life, although it was not an easy life. But now he realized that the life he had lived up to this time was just not the truth. He did not get a girlfriend, his brothers did - he did not go out to school or for work - his brothers and sisters did - he was not able to help his parents with their work - his brothers and sisters did - he just did not live an ordinary life.

Yes, he knew that he was not the only one who had to suffer but nevertheless he could not understand why he although his life was so much different from his brothers, although he could not properly speak until he was tutored by a real teacher and went to a special treatment in a clinic, although he was not able to go out because he was not able to walk, he had to feel the same as they did. Why did he nevertheless fall in love with girls? This was a very important question for Christy but he never found an answer for it.

But the most important thing for Christy was that he at least had the possibility to express himself by writing or by painting. This ways of communication opened the door to mental freedom and they gave him the chance of becoming at least a partly fullfilled person.

I am of the opinion that Christy Brown was a very sensible person because although his mother cared a lot for him he had to go through a very hard life time. He had to find his own way how he wanted to spend his life, he had to be able to handle his disease, his being different from others. One of the most horrible moments for Christy Brown was when a young girl, who he really liked very much, came after a very long to see him but only looked at him with pity.

All people told Christy that he should be happy that he was such a marvellous boy - but Christy was not. He just wanted to be an ordinary boy - he did not want to be able to write with his toes( for him it looked as if a monkey was performing some excercises in front of a big audience in a circus) he just wanted to be like all for example his brothers were. He wanted to have a job, to go out with girls, to help his parents at home - he just wanted to do things that all boys at his age at that time did. - But he was not able to.

I think the only time when Christy realized what he had succeeded to do in his at this time still quite young life was at the Burl Ives` Concert. There for the very first time he was in front of many people and he knew that most of them had only come because two chapters out of his book, of his lifestory would be read to them. There he saw how much his life had changed and that it was worth living. It was never easy for him, neither when he was a little boy, neither when he went through the most beautiful time of his time, when he went around with his brothers and not at all when he was desperate.

8 of 8 pages


Brown, Christy - My left foot
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Brown, Christy, English
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Johanna Granitzer (Author), 2000, Brown, Christy - My left foot, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • guest on 4/10/2003

    einfach super.

    ich finde diesen bericht einfach nur super!! wahnsinn!!!

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