I’m not just the girl in the wheelchair.
In fact, I am Isabelle, also known as Izzie. I am 13 years old and I have a condition called Diplegia Cerebral Palsy. When my mum was pregnant with me, I had fits which caused me to have brain damage. Cerebral Palsy is a condition that affects my muscles. I cannot walk unassisted and I have a right sided weakness. However, I can walk with a walking frame, but I spend most of my time in my wheelchair as I get tired quickly.
I don’t let my disability define who I am.
Yes I live my life differently from other people, as in I don’t walk to the shops, I rarely dance on my legs, I can’t carry things and walk at the same time, I don’t swim in the same way as my friends and I don’t stand up to do Judo.
When I was little, my parents told me I can do anything I want, but I just will have to find a different way of doing it, and that’s exactly what I’ve done.
Thanks to everyone for the amazing care I have received from all the different departments (too many to name) at Evelina London, including the crazy Dr Charlie Fairhurst who used to do my Botox in my legs and tell me he was spraying ice cream on me… really, and I believed him! There is Dr Champion my metabolic consultant who really needs to work on some new jokes, and then there is the orthopaedic surgeon Mr Kokkinakis who has changed my life. When I met him quite a few years ago I had turned in feet, locked knees and my tendons were too short. He offered me multi-level surgery which was very frightening, but I overcame my fear because the team were so caring and honest with me. I spent two months in full plaster casts and had a year of intensive physiotherapy. The result is that I can walk with straight flat feet, my knees are now straight, and it makes walking easier when I use my walking frame.
But the most amazing part of my orthopaedic journey was that I had the first lot of surgery in 2015, then in 2016 I had two more operations and a year later I became the Pan Disability European Judo Champion 2017… Yes, just a year after multi-level surgery, and I retained my title in 2018. Unfortunately, this year I came away with silver, but next year I will go back to Holland and get Gold again. I have also completed the Westminster Mile in a wheelchair and using a walking frame six times, the Hastings Half Marathon three times, plus many other races. I’ve also just done the Super Tri in Windsor, all for charity. Something else I love doing is the talks to the student teachers at the University of Canada about how they should work with children with disabilities and see us for our ability, not our disability.
For the last few years, I have helped with the future surgeons training session with Mr Kokkinakis and Mr Gough. This is a fun afternoon where I get to be the patient, but one with all the answers, and the future surgeons are the nervous ones. But what’s really good is how Mr Gough and Mr Kokkinakis insist that they speak to me and not my mum. After all, I’m not just a girl in a wheelchair I can talk, I know my condition and I know everything about what it’s like to have cerebral palsy. I really hope they leave the session having learnt just one thing …. talk to the children not their parents, cos us kids know everything!
So, you see I’m not just the girl in a wheelchair, I’m not just the disabled child, the one with cerebral palsy.
I am me, Isabelle Everest, Pan Disability European Judo Champion... one day soon to be Dr Isabelle Everest Paediatric Specialist.
Isabelle will be speaking at our Inspiring Youth Conference on Monday 21 October. Come along to hear her and others talking about a range of exciting topics related to health and emotional well-being.