LEARNING & EDUCATION

Driving change for the better

Amputee

Helen Dolphin MBE

The darkest hour

At the age of 22 I contracted meningococcal septicaemia. My chances of survival were virtually 0 but to give me the best chance both my hands and legs were amputated. I survived but there were additional complications; I also lost 1 metre of bowel, endured numerous skin grafts, was PEG fed for months, lost the sight in one eye, contracted MRSA , lost my hair and my adrenal glands stopped working.  I also lost my job, my home,  and it felt like my entire life had fallen apart. I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do.

From watching day time TV to starring on daytime TV

After spending most of a year in the hospital I finally came home to my parent's house where I had to sleep in their front room. My days were spent watching lots of day time TV.  It was whilst watching this that I had an idea. There were loads of people on these programs who had endured illnesses and disability and I felt I had a story to tell. It wasn't long before I had effectively sold my story around the world and my telephone never stopped ringing. Instead of watching day time TV I was now sitting on the sofas talking to Richard and Judy or Lorraine or BBC news. I was also featured in many newspapers and became a regular in many Tabloids. From my TV appearances, I was asked by my local TV station Anglia News if I would like to train with them as a journalist. It was a great opportunity which I grabbed with both hands.

From TV reporter to transport campaigner

After working for the news for 8 years, and reporting on many stories to do with disability and inequality I decided I wanted to do more to raise the issues faced by disabled people. I, therefore, left to work as a campaigner for a local charity who were concerned with the issues faced by disabled drivers. It was through my work at the charity that I became more aware of the issues faced by Blue Badge holders and I dedicated a lot of time trying to improve this scheme. I also joined the Disabled Person's Transport Advisory Committee which advises the government on the transport needs of disabled people.

Setting up my own business

Three years ago I decided the time was right for me to strike out on my own. I set up a parking accreditation company called People's Parking which is an inclusive scheme to help everyone find a car park which meets their specific requirements, be they a disabled person, a motorcyclist, an EV driver etc. I also set up a consultancy to enable me to work with a variety of different companies and organisations and help improve access for disabled people.  It can be tough running your own business but it is also really rewarding, especially when you see the work you have done making a difference to others.

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