Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Week 2022 - Breanna's Story
Having a C1/C2 incomplete spinal cord lesion from birth has far from limited my life. Even though my movement is limited from my neck down to my toes, for me, it’s meant that my life has been full of opportunities and adventures that I couldn’t possibly have imagined. I’m only 20-years-old, but I am proud of what I have achieved in my personal life, advocacy, health consumer work, and as a law student.
From a young age, I knew that I was happy in my life as a person with a disability. When I was 7-years-old, my family and I went to a community Christmas celebration where a group of ladies saw me in my wheelchair and offered a prayer to heal me. Whilst I graciously agreed and was excited at the time, it wasn’t until I got back to the car when my little kid brain clicked and I thought … what if I wake up tomorrow and I can walk – I don’t want that, I like the person I am and don’t want to change that.
Looking back, I think this is a testament to how having a disability is such a huge part of who I am and how I live my life.
I’ve been so lucky to have an amazing family and many mentors who have supported and enriched my life with knowledge and opportunities. I’ve been on flying foxes, flung through the air on a harness, explored lots of places, and gone surfing, skiing and snorkelling. I’ve even had a wish granted through Make-A-Wish – to help host and organise a vintage circus masquerade fundraising ball – which raised over $150,000 to help other kids’ wishes come true. I also own and ride my beautiful horse, Orion, and am studying to be a lawyer at the University of the Sunshine Coast.
My family and I have faced many difficulties throughout my life in the health system and the disability sector – an appeal process with the NDIA being the most recent barrier to accessing the support I need. Through these challenges, I have learnt to advocate for myself (with the awesome help of my parents!) and have developed a passion for helping others’ voices be heard. I believe this has really influenced my career choice in law, as advocacy is foundational to being a lawyer.
During my transition from paediatric to adult health services, I was exposed to the huge gap in support for adolescents and young adults in this space. Towards the end of this journey, I was able to transform this knowledge and lived experience into positive future change through my role as a health consumer and advocate. I’ve had some amazing opportunities to speak at forums to clinicians and executives with other like-minded consumers, working towards creating a physical and cultural shift in the health system for this group who are in such a vulnerable transitional period.
I am excited to continue being a voice for others and building this into my future law career. It’s also great to see how inclusive and supportive society is becoming for people with a disability, especially people like me who have significant physical impairments. My long-term ambitions are to travel the world to experience the different sights and cultures, and one day compete in dressage horse riding.
So, as some people assume, yes, living with a spinal cord lesion has its everyday challenges but overall, I feel like I’m living my fullest life and am loving every moment.
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