HOPEWELL — Anne Loyster is well aware that many people with her disability don’t live to the age of 30.
Now that she has reached that milestone, she sees no reason why she can’t live to see 40 or 50 — or for that matter, her 60s, 70s and beyond.
“I am very well and happy and plan to live many more years,” Loyster said last week at the Ontario Center for Rehabilitation & Healthcare, where she has lived since October. “If I have made it this far, God obviously has a plan for me.”
Although her birthday was May 4, her family, staff and residents at the Ontario Center celebrated the occasion at a party on May 6. It included cake, music, a bake sale and raffles with proceeds benefiting Geneva-based Happiness House/Finger Lakes Cerebral Palsy and the CP Foundation.
Loyster, who grew up in Auburn, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was 2. She has used a motorized wheelchair since childhood.
Loyster said she and her twin sister were born three months premature. In fact, they were born in a car while their mother was en route to the hospital.
Loyster weighed just over two pounds at birth. She and her sister, who weighed slightly more than three pounds, spent three months in the hospital before they could go home.
Loyster noted that her sister, Crystal Barnhart, is married with three children and is a certified nursing assistant in Auburn. Their mother, Mary Guzewicz, also lives in Auburn and is in frequent contact with Loyster.
“We both grew up with a love of music. We took after our mother,” said Loyster, who has an affinity for country music. “We are both very musical.”
Despite her condition and having two back surgeries (one that required the insertion of 12 metal rods), Loyster participated in grade school and high school choir in Auburn. She graduated in 2006, noting she defied doctors by walking to get her diploma and back to her wheelchair — a distance of about 600 feet.
“After my first surgery, my mother spent hours and hours on therapy so I could walk some,” she said.
Loyster went to nearby Cayuga Community College for about a year and a half, majoring in music with plans to be a vocal music teacher, before having a stroke. It was the first of several she would endure, including two major ones.
“That was my first time in a nursing home, and I have been in and out of them since I was 18,” said Loyster, who made all-county chorus in high school. “My dream was to be a music teacher.”
The Ontario Center is the fourth facility Loyster has been in — and it is her favorite. She volunteers with the activities staff and helps residents get around the facility; she also enjoys painting, music and stamping for greeting cards.
“There are some people here who can’t get out of bed, so I help them with that. I also want to be an inspiration for them. I spend one-on-one time with the residents and play games with them,” she said. “I also like computers and do a blog for the Center for Disability Rights. I will do my best for as long as I am living here.”
Loyster raised about $200 for Happiness House and the CP Foundation at her party, where she also sold bracelets she made.
“They helped me when I was little,” she said of Happiness House. “I had to learn how to crawl, how to use a walker and how to use a power wheelchair. With help from my Mom and sister, I had to learn to do different and difficult things.”
Ontario Center staff said anyone who could not make it to the party, but would like to contribute to Happiness House, can do so by using the “donate now” button at happinesshouse.org/volunteer/index.aspx.
Loyster thanked staff and residents at her party. A special thank-you went to a nurse at the Ontario Center, Diane McDermott, who has known Loyster since she was 2.
“She has been part of my life since I was a baby. She has literally taken care of me my whole life,” she said. “If I am down she is there for me. I even frequently call her Mom.”
“You all came into my lives in October and since then I have gone through some hard times and a lot of you have helped me through it. If it wasn’t for some of you I would not be here,” Loyster added. “You have taken better care of me than any other nursing home. Not many people with my disability live past age 22. Thank you for your time today and every day.”