Jimmy Curran has Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a form of muscular dystrophy, but he doesn’t let his life revolve around his disability. To most who meet him, it quickly becomes obvious that Curran is like any college student – with the same hobbies, dreams and pressures to make his parents proud.
SMA is a genetically inherited neuromuscular disease, characterized by muscular atrophy and weakness.
“There are three forms, one, two, and three – one being the most severe, three being the mildest,” said Curran, a sophomore business major. “And I have type two.”
People might expect a guy like Curran to have a chip on his shoulder, but this isn’t the case.
He recently appeared in a student film by Aaron Miller, a sophomore advertising major, appropriately named “FMA 101,” as it pokes fun at film majors.
In one scene of the film, Miller groans to the man behind the camera “God d—–, you suck as a steady hand.” But when he grabs the camera away, the cameraman is revealed to be Curran in his wheelchair.
“It was a spur-of-the-moment thing,” Curran said of his involvement with the film. “He just asked me to do him a favor, and he came up with the idea. I thought it was funny.”
Curran doesn’t get offended easily, so he’s comfortable enough to make a little joke about his disability but added: “I wouldn’t say it’s one of those things like a fat kid makes fat jokes, you know?”
Many who saw the film laughed in surprise and said something along the lines of “Oh, that guy,” but they didn’t know his name. Some admitted they’ve seen him around Main Campus, but they are intimidated by people with disabilities. Because of misunderstandings like this, some people keep their distances from Curran and often don’t get to know him.
But rather than be depressed about his disability or swing the other way and make a comedy shtick out of it, Curran said his disability isn’t an issue.
“People ask if it’s hard or if I have a difficult time, but really, it’s the only thing I know,” he said.
Curran attended Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School in Plymouth Meeting, Pa., but he also went to Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, Pa., for a year and a half. He is the third-born of four children, and none of his other siblings have SMA.
He said he never felt like an outcast growing up because his siblings and neighborhood kids never treated him differently.
“If you don’t feel different, you’re never going to feel that people are treating you differently,” Curran said.
He noted that a lot of people with disabilities surround themselves with other disabled people, but he enjoys socializing with everyone.
He didn’t go out a lot his first year because he was worried that the off-campus houses weren’t wheelchair accessible, but now, he goes anyway.
“People will just lift up my chair into the house,” he said with a smile.
Temple’s Main Campus is equipped with services for disabled students, but Curran said he chose the university because of a good instinct. And when he came here, he fit in really well.
He primarily listens to music and hangs out with friends for fun, but as a business major, he also enjoys reading business reports in the Wall Street Journal. He said he hopes to run his own business one day. Above all, he hopes to make his parents proud because he feels that they have given up a lot for him.
“They should get to know me,” Curran said of those who recognize him as that guy in the wheelchair. “I’m approachable, I think. I love meeting new people.”
Greg Trainor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.