Meet Aimee

The following is an interview with Aimee Vargas, a teenager with spina bifida.  This is also an introduction of her, because she will be writing for our blog on a regular basis!

1. Aimee, tell me about yourself.

I am Aimee Vargas from Springville Utah. I am sixteen years old going into my senior year. I have two younger siblings and we live with our parents. I like to sing, write articles for the newspaper, meet celebrities, go to concerts, hang out with my friends, and help people out with their problems. What makes me happiest the most is giving to others so I do my best to help individuals as much as I can. My favorite place to help out is at the Friday Night Kids Respite. I have been raised in Utah my entire life but I was born in El Paso, Texas in the Thomason Hospital. When my parents got married they were not planning on having children yet, but a month after tying the knot my mother got the news that she was expecting me. My mother said that her pregnancy with me was almost always peaceful and she rarely suffered any sicknesses or pain. My parents did not know I was going to have Spina Bifida, in fact, the doctor broke the news right when I was delivered. They were shocked to hear that I was going to have a disability and immediately questioned, “how is she going to fit in when she’s older?” Another thing that was a major factor with the disability was that my mother did not know about the need for Folic Acid and also Spina Bifida is in the history on my father’s side of the family.

2.  Tell me about your family.

As I stated earlier, I live with my parents and two siblings. My sister Jayleen is eleven years old and my brother Jason is nine, which makes me the oldest child. My father’s name is Enrique and my mother’s name is Elizabeth. My parents are wonderful and they do their best to keep us along. My father will make time in his day to make sure we’re caught up in school and when he’s not doing so, he is working. My mother is mostly the one who will take us to our extracurricular activities such as my wheelchair basketball. My parents have been supportive of me in my sports, social life, and interests.

Aimee and her brother and sister.

3. I know that you are involved in the Jr. Wheelin’ Jazz.  Tell us a little about the team and how you got involved. What has the experience been like for you?

I’ve been involved in the NWBA’s Utah Junior Wheelin’ Jazz since October 2009 and it has changed my life for the better. Sitting there in 7th grade in my P.E. class was hard because I would see others participate in things I couldn’t really do, but when basketball came around for the class to do, I gave it a chance. The first time I had the basketball in my hand it was something I wanted to continue. In 8th grade people knew that I wanted to play basketball, especially those in my LDS church. One day the Young Women and Men in my LDS ward went to the temple and I tagged along. Sitting in the waiting room until everyone came seemed like an eternity and who would have known that that day would have changed the course of my life. Minding my own business I noticed that the young men leader stepped out of the temple to take a call and a couple minute later he came in and said, “Aimee, I’d like to introduce you to someone.” I was scared but curious when he said this because I had no clue where he was taking me nor did I know who he was talking about. Ahead of me there was a man waiting in his van and it was Mike Schlappi. I was shocked to have him in front of me. I saw one of his documentaries in my health class in 8th grade and considered him one of the people I look up to since then. Schlappi is a Four-Time Paralympic Medalist in USA Men’s Wheelchair Basketball  and a Two-Time World Champion in Wheelchair Basketball. Mike had told me that he would help me get involved in wheelchair basketball and he did. He got me connected with my Head and Assistant Coach Marilyn Blakley and Layne Mangum. I always thought that being involved in a team it wouldn’t be something “professional”; I always thought that a local city team would be just fine, but instead, I was taken all the way to the NWBA! It’s amazing to see what I’ve gotten out of being in the Wheelin’ Jazz. I’ve gotten the opportunity to meet people that are now important in my life, gain friendships, and knowledge, but, most importantly I’m able to relieve all my stress into the court and have fun. I don’t think something is worth while if you don’t enjoy it. Another thing I’m thankful for is that I can use my passion for reaching out to others and helping them by creating a statement and being part of the team and that truly makes me happy.


4. What challenges do you face (or have you faced) related to spina bifida?

I don’t face a lot of challenges due to Spina Bifida. I can’t run, jump, or climb but I feel like that’s the least important in my everyday doings. I’m currently using my second shunt. My first shunt went to my heart but now it goes to my stomach. The shunt that goes to my stomach was placed when I was nine years old and I hope my shunt doesn’t fail again. I have dealt with sores before, mainly on the side of my legs because of my braces, but at least when it comes to school, I don’t have to worry about putting pressure on the sore. I use a wheelchair at school to get around easier and I use crutches when I’m out in public, but at home I don’t use my wheelchair nor my crutches. I do not have serious issues with my bowel.  So I feel pretty lucky.  I learned how to catheterize myself at age eight and go 3-5 times a day so I guess you could say that my bladder is able to function pretty well. I’ve had procedures done to my bladder. I’ve had two minor surgeries, (more like a shot), to decrease my bladder problem, and I’ve also had a sling.

After one of her surgeries when she was little.

Aimee at age four.

5. Where do you see yourself in the future?

I think about my future quite a lot because I feel it’s important to at least imagine how you want to live your life at least once. In fact, I was just thinking about my future just last night. I know that my purpose in life, without a doubt, is to reach out and help people. When I was little I had wanted to be a singer but these last two years I have changed my mind about it. I still enjoy to sing, but it’s something I like to do in the car. College wise, my mind is tied between White Water University in Wisconsin or Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah. I know I need to make a decision quickly because I have to apply this summer and I hope to make a definite decision soon. A part of me wants to be a motivational speaker and another part of me just wants to be a journalist. If I become a journalist I hope that I can motivate people somehow in the newspaper columns-maybe create an advice column- if I go into Public Relations I need to work on my speaking ability since I tend to stutter when I’m nervous, but Public Relations and Journalism are two fields that are on my mind. When it comes to creating a family in the future, I want to get married in an LDS temple here in Utah to a return missionary and have two or three children. I have taken Child Development classes and will again next year to gain more knowledge on how to take care of children and I’m glad I’ve taken the class to know how to prevent birth defects.

Take a look at Aimee on Facebook and on her Blog.  She has a lot of great things to say!

Facebook group:!/pages/Aimee-Vargas-Fan-Club/124630280888810
Motivational blog:

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