That did not go to plan.
Trevor and I set off in the car to Far North Queensland for 2 weeks of school presentations, only to be sidelined by Thalidomide and what it continues to do to my body. Yes, the poor excuse for a national Highway we have here in Queensland was probably the contributing factor or should that be the poor repairs to the road, makes the drive so rough. It does not matter how I injured my neck, be it by the poor road or simply because I moved it the wrong way or just cause I am a Thalidomide survivor in my 50’s. I do know my pain levels have gone through the roof and I’m unable to function at the moment. Losing my balance or falling over is not a good option (luckily, I just fell back onto lounge), especially with no arms to brace the fall or simply grab onto something to stop the fall.
Who would have thought just how much I move my neck to dress, wash myself or simply brush my hair or my teeth?
As a lay in bed hoping the pain killers will take the edge off the pain and wondering just how I would survive the next 7days visiting schools having lost the ability (temporarily) to move my neck.
In tears, I had to agree with Trevor the best thing for me was to cancel the rest of my school visits on this trip and immediately return home to get treatment. It was an extremely difficult decision but sometimes you just must put things into perspective.
I could not get treatment in Cairns because of Thalidomide, I can not just ring any physiotherapist and ask for an appointment, the last time I tried that I went through 6 before I found one prepared to have a go at treating me because Thalidomide has made my body so different to normal and I scare them. Years ago, a physiotherapist made my body much worse once, I spent over two weeks in bed after tying someone new when my regular lady had been away.
Trevor got on the phone in the middle of the night and sent messages cancelling the 2 schools for the next day, then he got onto the computer and emailed all the schools for the next week advising of what had happened and that I would not be able to visit those schools. I was so upset Trevor had spent months co ordinating with schools, booking motels working out a budget for the trip. Months of wasted effort all because of Thalidomide.
It is times like this you realize just how much the Australian Government does NOT do for me and my fellow Thalidomide survivors they helped create.
So on went a neck support, I took my pain meds and gingerly climbed back in our car for the 2 and a half day drive back home, again because of what Thalidomide continues to do to our bodies I can’t travel in the car for as long as a normal person.
I am now resting on the couch between doctors and physio visits, as I wait for them to hopefully repair my damaged body. So, I may continue to enjoy my life.
The positives from this fortnight of negativity-
I got to meet some wonderful students and their teachers who gave me lots of goodies to take home, the schools I did visit were terrific and have asked me back again whenever I am up in their area.
Now I am resting on the couch I guess some drawing will be the order of the day.
Remember, BE HAPPY.
Last year I was nominated by a student for the ’Fierce Girls’ competition run by the ABC. This was her entry:
Fierce Girls by Eliza.
“What is wrong with that girl over there in the thongs?” people said as they walked past, “Where are her arms?” Trish looked down and felt her face flush, she was the girl over there, she was the one with no arms.
Trish Jackson is a survivor of Thalidomide, a drug that her mother took when she was pregnant to stop morning sickness. Soon after her mother had taken the drug, researchers announced that it would ‘deform’ your baby.
Trish attended Cootharinga Crippled Children’s Home for the first 3 years of her schooling. Her family relocated to Brisbane, so that she could be closer to the Chermside Heart Hospital. She begged her father to let her attend a ‘normal school’ like her brothers and sisters. After a her continuous begs, Trish finally got to attend a ‘normal school’, even though it was one of the only schools who would except people like her.
Trish was in and out of hospital, having heart operations that she still has today. Her mother had to come to school every break to take her to the toilet, until she graduated in Grade 12. That would have been so embarrassing. But it meant Trish could go to a normal school.
Trish Jackson had to grow up listening to those horrible comments on her appearance. Like “What is Wrong with that girl?” or “She looks so weird.” When there is nothing unusual about her, only something unique. She is Fierce.
When Trish finished Grade 12, she went to apply for a job through Centrelink, they told Trish that people like her did not work. So, they sent her to a workshop where you would put knives, forks and napkins in a paper bag and if you were lucky, you would get the job of operating the machine that would seal the bags shut. The Government told Trish that she had to stay there for 4 months to prove she was capable of working.
Trish’s first real job was as a receptionist, after about 12 months she got a job working for the Government – the very people who said, that people like her couldn’t work. Trish worked as an office worker in the Health Department, and she was there for about 11 years.
By then Trish’s health was failing just because feet are not meant to be hands, she was tired all the time and her pain was increasing. So, Trish started working from home for the Personal Trading Post, it was privately owned and then it was just a newspaper with no internet page. Trish loved this job, she would put the phone on her bed with a diary and note pad. Trish would sit cross legged and use the phone on speaker and write with her feet. The cat would lay on her bed and watch Trish work. At the end of the day a courier would call and pick up the work she had done that day and take it to the office. This job was interesting for Trish because she was at home no one knew she was different. Trish was just the lady on the phone that helped them with their advertisements of things for sale. She worked for them right up until her daughter was born, the proudest moment of her life was becoming a mum, something she was told she never would become.
Trish is a fierce girl because she never gave up and followed her mother’s saying, “If you say I can’t then take the t off and it will become I can”. Trish goes to schools telling the kids there her story and how she always believed she could do it and now she is doing more than a lot of other people do. Now people go around saying, “That’s Trish Jackson the inspiring girl who never gave up”.
My first talk for 2019, was for a local Lioness’s club. It was wonderful to be invited and what a great bunch of ladies who do so much work for the community.
These were my gifts from them, a beautiful card, a fold-up pillow, which will come in very handy and it is very comfy to sit on or to put behind my back. I was also presented with this cushion cover from an artist called Frida Kahlo this is a self-portrait that she did.
A bit about Frida Kahlo, she was considered one of the Mexico’s greatest artists, she was born in, 1907 in Mexico.
Frida contracted polio at the age of 6 and in 1922 she was in a serious bus accident, a steel handrail impaled her through the hip. Her spine and pelvis were fractured, this accident left her in a great deal of pain, both physically and physiologically. When she left hospital she was in a full body cast, to pass time through her recovery she taught herself to paint. Her works were in galleries in Paris and New York.
I was asked to be part of a podcast on photography. Hope you enjoy the podcast.
Very excited to open the local paper to see my photograph of a calf I took in my area make the front cover..
Not bad for holding my camera out the car window with my foot whilst Trevor drove the car..
During August I went for a little drive about 3500 km to Ingham in North Queensland to be guest speaker at Ingham High School’s awards night.
On the way I stopped at Magnetic Island Primary School (my first overseas speaking engagement) were I did two presentations to the whole school, it was a location and a great place to start my trip. I spent the weekend sightseeing in Townsville, as well I managed to catch up with family and friends.
Monday was a sleep in as my first Townsville school, Ryan Catholic College was not till after lunch where I did two presentations to the Grades 3 and 4.
Tuesday saw me head to Townsville Central school again for 2 midday presentations this time to years 5 and 6 with a special guest my daughter Erin and 1 of her friends, the pressure was on, as Erin had never heard me speak before.
Wednesday is usually my rest day, but I was on a mission, I was looking for Cootharinga crippled children’s home where I attended as a day student for grades 1 to 3. Unable to find the exact location I contacted them, they are still around but now as a service provider for people with a disability. After locating the exact address of my old school, I headed off to the head office of Cootharinga to look through their archive library to see if there were any photos of me when I was there at school. I got to meet staff and find out about what Cootharinga does today.
Watch this space more news about this to come.
Thursday was the busiest day of this trip starting with a presentation to students at Townsville Grammar’s Northshore Junior Campus speaking to prep to year 3 with several guests like Peter from Townsville Sailablity, and the marketing department of Cootharinga and numerous parents visiting the school on its annual open day. I believe the adults were as impressed as the students of what you can achieve with a positive attitude and simply having ago.
I said my goodbyes, jumped back into the car and headed off to Ingham for Ingham High’s awards night what a school and a fantastic bunch of students.
Friday saw me back at the high school for the whole day, which started with judging a photo competition, followed by a talk to a small group in an informal atmosphere, then it was off to art class where I did my presentation then talked with students about my art but more importantly their art. I did 3 of these 70-minute art groups only interrupted by 2 meal breaks with students.
Friday night saw me out on the town with friends for a joint birthday dinner at Ingham’s finest restaurant Enrico’s with Michael and Ruth Mathews & 2 of their children and their first grandchild. Fantastic food and Fantastic friends.
Over the weekend we retraced our tracks to be at Maryborough Special school for Monday to do my last presentation on this year’s North Queensland adventure with over 1118 people who listened to me speaking along the way. Then it was home to my lounge chair with lots of rest and some drawing, while Trevor unpacks and cleans the car and catches up on his chores.
That just about covers our 2 weeks to North Queensland this winter till next year.
You take that “T” off “I Can’t” it becomes “I Can”
I had the pleasure of speaking at my local View club last week. They kindly gave me this beautiful pen as a thank you gift. I met around 60 lovely ladies who work tirelessly for their community. It was a lovely way to spend the morning, luckily my heart decided to wait untill that night before doing an unusual beat (even for me) and I ended up in hospital for the night. Trying new medication to keep the rhythm of my heart beat in a more regular beat not this punk rocking beat that it wanted to do. The joys of being a thalidomide baby is that there aren’t many places where the Doctors can draw blood from me, all the veins that they used to use in my feet now all collapse as soon as the needle goes in. The only place left is the femeral artery which is in my groin, not the nicest place to have blood drawn from but it is the only place that works well. There is also the concern that it will be hard to get an IV drip into me in an emergency or for future operations that I need to have done. These are the joys of Thalidomide that no one thinks about yet they are life saving regular testing that doctors carry out everyday on people with out the trials of having to do it on thalidomide survivors who are missing their limbs through 1 little pill.
My Road Trip to Far North Queensland 2017
20 days – 5500 km’s – 12 schools – 2129 students
What better way to spend a few weeks in the middle of winter than to take a road trip to the Cairns Region.
The 12 schools covered a broad spectrum, private and state, both primary and secondary, from country schools of 29 students to city schools with a campus of 1800 plus students. Schools participation varied from whole school to target groups from one presentation to multiple presentations over the whole day.
I now have a new name “Miss Trish”, the students were not only polite and respectful, they were engaging and eager to hear my stories and share theirs with me. The addition of short video clips to my A/V presentation was extremely well received and generated a lot of discussion. The fidget spinner clip was just as entertaining for the senior schools as it was for the junior students, I will have to work on more tricks with the spinner for next year.
I don’t charge a fee for my speaking, but I am highly paid in other ways.
One student removed her zentangling drawing of a dolphin from an art display and gave it to me.
At another school after speaking several young students waited in turn to speak privately to me one insisted I take his 3 marbles and keep them, another young girl gave me her ‘strive to be kind’ bracelet and a third girl while listening to me speak turned her award certificate into an origami heart. It is these little heart felt gestures that just blown me away.
At one secondary college at the end of the day, the young lady (student) thanking me for spending the day at their college struggled with her speech as the emotions of my presentation bought her and then a large group of students to tears. The next day teaching staff asked another year group of students at the same college to write reviews of my presentations. I received an email a few days later and it was my turn to burst out crying as I read review after review from these students WOW.
I also got to meet a student who through one of his teachers I have been mentoring over the last 6 months on disability issues.
At a lot of schools, I speak in the leadup to a break, students can then come and speak to me in a more private setting (my microphone is turned off) to say thank you or to share a story maybe ask a question they couldn’t ask in front of all their fellow students, or even just to give me a hug.
Another moment for me was at a primary school I had just spoken at, as I was leaving a young non-verbal girl tapped the empty seat beside her and gestured for me to sit with her and we played together with her dinosaurs.
The following just shows the difference you can make, at one College a senior student had decided, he did not need me to tell him anything, so he sat outside. During my presentation, he quietly entered the room and took his seat, at the end of my presentation he came to me and apologized for his rude behaviour and not showing me respect and he enjoyed my presentation and he should have been inside from the beginning and he apologized again. This young gentleman then escorted me back to the office to sign out.
It is hard to put into a few words and share some of responses and their stories of meeting these fantastic students without identifying them, I will not forget meeting them just as sure they will never forget meeting me and listening to my life stories.
It has been over a week since I got back home to my favourite couch and I am guessing a few more weeks before I do much of anything, as I am so exhausted.
It is amazing not only how achy breaky my body is after a long trip away from home but just how tiring a trip is. I guess all the door handles I try to open along with disabled toilets not necessarily designed for all disabled people, to tables and chairs that are not at the right height for me to comfortably sit at to eat. Watching a bit of tv or using the computer, even the height of the bed made it hard getting in and out of bed, as for the showers, I did not have to wash my hair as there was not enough room for me to do it by myself, luckily that was something else I was able to get Trevor (my husband) to help me with. It breaks my heart that he must do more and more to help me with everyday things—simply that means I am losing my ability at a quick rate. Taps why have they got to be so hard to turn on or off? Why can’t every door handle be a lever one?
I could have hired a disabled apartment but they cost more and none were available and just because you pay extra for a bigger disabled room does not mean it is suitable for me.
Finally thankyou to my physiotherapist for her great weekly effort to get me in shape to do these trips and then fix my problems when I get back. These sessions with her are anything but relaxation they are pure torture, but if I didn’t go to her I wouldn’t move at all. Keep smiling, Trish
These are the three marbles, the ‘Strive to be Kind’ band & the heart that was given to me.