As a physiotherapist I have worked with many, many persons whose lives were changed unexpectedly by trauma, injury or accident. And I have often heard patients complain that when their physical body changes, they suddenly begin to realize how different society treats them. These stories break my heart.

I was saddened the other day when a friend of mine (who recently had an amputation) told me about an incident at a local shopping center. Two people on the escalator behind him were making audible comments about him not having an arm. It made him feel really uncomfortable to hear people discussing him like he was not even there. It really saddened me to hear that people who look different are treated differently.

Living with a disability is hard. But living in a society that does not know how to handle a disabled person makes it much worse.

One special lady (who happens to have a disability) is Irene Fischer. My path with Irene crossed after hearing her tell her story at a function I attended.

Irene was in a horrific car accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI for short). After months of rehabilitation (which of course included some physiotherapy) Irene published her first book, “I am still here”. She has made it her aim to improve the public’s awareness on traumatic brain injuries. She feels that creating awareness will help to reduce the stigma surrounding brain injury and disability.

I asked Irene about how she feels about disability and stigma. Do people with a disability really experience that society treats them differently?

“Of course I look and sound different. I survived my body being pummeled by a truck carrying 25 tonnes of maize. I was repackaged. The brain injury did not affect my IQ, temperament, personality or behaviour. (although in many cases of TBI it does). I am fortunate enough to be lucid and logical because my TBI mainly affected me in a physical manner. I have hemiplegia (one half of the body is affected) and a slight speech impairment. But despite all of this, I still bleed red. Just like you.”

Irene might look and sound different. But she is still Irene inside. #IamStillHere

“People with a disability have the same basic human needs that you have.

People with a disability need respect, patience, consideration and kindness.

As a fellow human being I crave recognition. Please do not ignore me just because I move and talk differently from you. “

Irene believes that a person with a TBI is not somehow a lesser life force just because they function differently. Irene encourages readers to look a disabled person in the eye when they happen to meet them. And to smile, because it will make their heart, and yours, feel good.

We all bleed red.

If you would like to find out more about Irene’s book please comment below


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