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Finding fashion after paralysis
Hi, I'm Emma. After a third storey fall two years ago, I was paralysed from the chest down and completely lost function in my hands.
I lived alone in London and work in a museum. In my spare time I loved to draw and paint, cook and sew. When I realised that I couldn't walk anymore I was devastated, but when I realised that I'd lost the use of my hands I thought I was worthless.
I shattered my pelvis, so for the first few months I couldn't sit up or turn and I had a tracheostomy so I couldn't speak. I felt I was no longer a person. My family helped me do everything, they encouraged me and even brought my dog to the Intensive Care Unit window so we could see each other. During this period of complete loss my boyfriend broke up with me.
Bit by bit I was allowed to raise my head, move my arms and start to talk again. My trache was then removed. This meant I was allowed to eat, with all of the other tubes also being removed from my body. As he liked to encourage me to eat, my dad brought all his camping gear to the hospital to cook me food such as carpark steak.
I was moved to Stoke Mandeville and began rehab, I couldn't sit up for more than ten minutes without passing out. Clothes, make-up and shoes were the last thing on my mind.
Things changed when I started to adapt. I had make-up splints made and worked hard to learn how to dress myself again, as well as typing and writing. I have never been a very sporty person, so I found the physiotherapy hard, but I was able to rediscover my personality through art and fashion. I felt like an idiot the first time I wore red lipstick to the gym, but so proud I'd applied it myself.
During my stay at Stoke Mandeville I met people who inspire me, and I will love for the rest of my life. We shared gallows humour during the darkest of times and were there to celebrate each other's small achievements. When a friend and fellow patient was able to open his packet of biscuits entirely without help, we coined the phrase ‘biscuit moments’ to describe the daily victories many would take for granted, but to us were monumental.
After leaving hospital I started posting on Instagram about my experiences and how I coped. I got so much support from other wheelchair users and other disabled people. Each person's story is so different, but we have all found ways to cope and grow in life-changing circumstances.
When I began to model I did it with the intention of building my confidence and helping anyone else who was in a similar situation. I was so flattered when Zebedee Management wanted to take me on! I now have realised it is not all about how others see you, but how you view and respect yourself.
I've gone back to work, got a new flat and a very new perspective of how to live, respect others and being comfortable in myself. I have had very uplifting experiences as a disabled person and some crushing ones. I think my perspective of living with a disability is to just keep striving to make the best of each day, celebrate the small wins, and try not to sweat the small stuff.
Here are few fashion tips that have helped me along the way:
- I was really disappointed after my accident that I couldn't wear silky skirts as I slid everywhere. So, I tried sitting on a small bit of silicone mat when I'm in slippery bottoms and it worked.
- Buy everything you like in a size up, clothes are made to stand and walk in not sit in all day, this makes it easier to get them on and off but is also flattering.
- I wear a corset for stability and blood pressure, but they'll also give you a great hourglass figure. I've enjoyed wearing new clothes I wouldn't have worn before that accentuate my new shape. Don't compromise, fashion is an amazing way to express yourself and feel comfortable in who you are.
I will never be a Paralympian and I'm comfortable with that, I have accepted who I am and how others see me.
Can you relate to Emma’s story? Was fashion hard to think of after your recovery? How did you feel when you had those small victories? Let us know in the comments below!