A 22-year-old woman stepped on stage for the Miss Washington USA pageant this weekend proudly showing off her condition that doesn’t allow her to straighten her arms, back, hands and leg.
Madeline Irwin was born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, a condition that causes curved joints and muscle weakness and stiffness.
After years of trying to conceal her disorder and blend in, she said she finally found the strength to accept and love herself through embracing her condition and surrounding herself with positive people.
Now she’s used the Miss Washington pageant as a platform to speak on her condition and break the stigma of people with physical disabilities.
Madeline Irwin, 22, was born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, a condition that doesn’t allow her to straighten her arms, back fingers and leg
She competed in the Miss Washington USA pageant this weekend on the platform of advocating for people with physical disabilities
The Washington State University student is passionate about advocating for people with physical disabilities because she said ‘there is a strong stigma around the word ”disability”’.
Madeline said growing up she didn’t want to be associated with the word and would try to blend in as ‘normal’ because unlike others with her condition, she doesn’t use a wheelchair.
What is arthrogryposis multiplex congenita?
Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita (AMC) is a disease of newborns resulting in decreased flexibility of the joints.
Symptoms differ drastically from person to person, including stiff joints and muscle weakness.
The areas that are most likely to have lack of movement are the shoulders, elbows, wrists, hands, hips, knees, and feet.
The lack of movement, unlike many other diseases, does not get worse as time goes by. However, it is necessary to seek treatment to prevent further impediments of the joints.
It wasn’t until Madeline built her confidence and began to love herself that she realized she could use the word ‘disabled’ to empower herself and then find the courage to empower others.
Arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, also known as AMC, is a disease that affects one in 3,000 infants.
There are many causes of the disease, most of which develop before birth including inadequate room in the uterus for the baby, a deformed spinal cord and central nervous system, and abnormal development of muscles.
Treatment is necessary to prevent further joint limitations and Madeline said she went to physical therapy when she was younger to build strength in those areas.
Madeline has severe scoliosis due to her AMC which causes her to suffer from restrictive lung disease, making it difficult to breath.
She underwent a spinal fusion surgery that put four metal rods and eight screws in her back when she was 12.
When she was just a baby, she had casts on both of her feet after a surgery to correct ‘rocker bottom foot’ or curved feet so she could walk properly.
However, she does struggle with daily tasks like lifting heavy things and walking far distances. She said her campus is very hilly, so if she has loads of books she gets tired quickly.
And though doctors have told her no further surgery will be required, she tries to stretch every day because her joints tense up easily.
Madeline took to Instagram to post pictures of her surgery scars, which she was formerly embarrassed about
Maseline has had surgeries on her hands, feet and back since she was a baby
New to pageantry, Madeline decided to enter in order to promote her platform.
In a private interview room with a panel of judges, she explained to them that she was vying for the crown to advocate for physically disabled people like herself.
She showed off her figure in a formal gown and bikini on stage in front of the audience and judges, something she had never done before.
Madeline takes to Instagram under the username ‘Crooked_loves’ to write about her condition and post ‘body positive’ images.
She posted photos of her scars and wrote: ‘I used to cover up my scars. But why? My scars are freaking awesome! Why did I ever hate them? Why did I want to hide them?’
Madeline continues with positive posts though she still experiences ‘bad body days’ which she also documents on social media to share the truths of living with a disability.
She said she’s found the strength to love her body by surrounding herself with positive people and unfollowing any social media accounts she sees as negative.
And though she may not have won the title of Miss Washington, she said she is ‘not close to finished’.
Madeline told Dailymail.com that she has some things in the works that have to do with working closely with the physically disabled, though she couldn’t disclose exactly what it is.
She writes on Instagram: ‘I am not beautiful DESPITE my disability. In fact, in a lot of ways, I am beautiful BECAUSE of it!’
The college student says it has been her dream to be able to advocate for physically disabled people and now it appears her dreams are finally in motion.
She said of her AMC: ‘It doesn’t define me, but it’s a huge part of who I am.’
Though she may not have won the title of Miss Washington, she said she is ‘not close to finished’