Loss of Mobility:
I was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy when I was 19. It is a progressive muscle wasting condition. It causes your muscles to weaken and contract over time.
I was very active when I was younger – I grew up on a horse farm in South Africa and used to do show jumping and endurance riding. After doing graphic design at university, I moved to London. Through most of my twenties, walking up stairs or standing from chairs became gradually more difficult. I started to work from home instead.
Eventually, walking became painful and I began to have frequent falls. Because it hurt to go out, I began going out less and less and my social life shrank as a result.
Over time, it became harder to get back up after having a fall. I have had multiple concussions and stitches in my head because of them. I was so stubborn about walking instead of using a wheelchair, I ended up trying to do it far beyond the point where it was safe. I thought using the chair meant that my life was going to be over… but I was wrong.
Moving Forward: When I was 30, I fell and shattered my kneecap; I couldn’t walk anymore but kept trying. I could only leave the house when somebody could push me in a manual chair. A year later, I got my electric wheelchair and suddenly my life got a whole lot better. Suddenly I could go for miles on my own without worry or pain or rest. My life blossomed, and I felt very silly for putting it off as long as I did.
I am 37 now and I have gone back to university to become a therapist for people with chronic health conditions. I love travelling: I have been to the Amazon Jungle, the Arctic Circle, the Sahara Desert – all around, really. Travelling with a wheelchair is a lot more challenging, but is an adventure in itself.
In my spare time, I like making art and volunteering and campaigning for disability rights. I go to a disabled gym and a hydrotherapy pool every week. I hope that I can use my experience of multiple levels of disability to help other people.
I haven’t had an incident where I was suddenly in a wheelchair, like a stroke or an accident. It’s been gradual, I’ve had to adapt perpetually, by small degrees, which is the easiest way.