I was diagnosed with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, (OI), at birth when doctors noticed immediately that I was born with a fractured femur. 'OI' is more commonly known as a brittle bone condition, and X-rays showed that I had multiple fractures while still in the womb that were healing. Throughout my childhood, I broke so frequently that I lost count. My breaks mostly occurred in my femurs and ribs. By the time I was 18, I had metal rods in both femurs, both tibias, and down my spine to prevent curvature and fractures. As an adult, I've become stronger and I break much less. I've been a full-time manual wheelchair user since age 3 and I get around pretty well! Because of OI, I also have a moderate hearing loss in both ears. I received my first set of hearing aids when I entered the workforce and they have made a world of difference!
I attended an elementary school for kids with disabilities. During these early years, having many friends with a wide variety of disabilities, I learned that we all have strengths and weaknesses and that the world works really well when we come together and support each other with our unique strengths. I learned how to live with a disability because I saw others around me doing it too. Because of my disabled friends, I learned about wheelchair sports, accessible recreation programs, accessible transportation, the latest in wheelchair innovations and accessible technology. I learned from my disabled friends how to climb onto countertops, carry my books, push with my elbows, bump myself down curbs, and the list goes on. I learned that different and awkward can still work pretty darn well and is actually okay and normal. And with all this, I learned confidence, compassion, and humility. I developed a strong sense of self and sense of pride and I took this foundation with me when I entered my neighborhood high school of 2000 students, and as I went on to University and Grad School, interviews, dating and now in my career.
Having had so much personal experience with orthopaedic surgeons and physical therapists as a child, I expressed to my parents early on that these were career fields I was interested in. My parents always had the highest expectations of me. They saw my strenghts and knew there was much I could excel in, while also being realistic with things that might be challenging. They helped me realize that a career dealing with large, heavy limbs might have too many physical demands for my small body, and instead they encouraged me to find other, similar opportunities that I could really excel in. And so, I learned of speech-language pathology - still a helping profession and in the medical field, but without the same physical demands. In 2010 I completed a Master's Degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders and I've now been working for over 8 years as a Speech-Language Pathologist with adults recoving from stroke, in a rehabilitation centre. I absolutely love the work I do and feel that my own experiences as a past patient allow me to build genuine rapport with those who are now my patients.
Meeting my husband
I married my husband in 2013 after meeting online in 2006. He doesn't see past my wheelchair or my disability because they are part of me; they are not all of who I am, just like no single feature is all of who I am, but my wheelchair and disability have undoubtedly shaped the person I am today, and my husband sees that, appreciates that and loves that. He loves all that is me.
My husband and I share a passion for traveling. Trip planning has become a serious hobby for me. I've touched my wheels down in Japan, Australia, Thailand, Taiwan, Italy, England, Costa Rica and throughout much of the Carribean, Canada, and the USA. I enjoy spending my hours researching accessible vacations and am in the process of creating a blog to share my experiences. The beauty of this big wide world should be accessible to everyone and I want to help others find it! I am in the process of creating an accessible travel blog, so stay tuned!
I got my driver's license when I was 18 and had my vehicle modified with hand controls, a big cushion so I could see over the steering wheel with a robotic arm. The robot arm sits in the trunk and extends out to the driver's side door, picks up my wheelchair, and puts it away in the trunk, all with a touch of a button!
When I was 10 years old I joined a synchronized swimming team. I loved the water; my body was able to move freely with no dangerous impact. I loved the music, the dance, the creativity, and choreography. Synchronized swimming is such an adaptable sport. I was able to create a routine that was suited to my abilities. I also appreciated the health benefits. The cardio work-out, the stretching, muscle strengthening, and respiratory work-out were so good for my body.
When I became engaged, my now husband and I signed up for ballroom dancing classes! We found an instructor who had experience teaching wheelchair ballroom dance and with his help we created a dance that we performed at our wedding. I am dedicated to keeping my body moving to the best of its ability!