Disability and rehabilitation

Romania: Erika Garnier

Erika Garnier is 25 years old and has been using a wheelchair for three years now. She writes about what her disability helped her to learn.

After many investigations, in March 2010, I found out that I had a tumor in my spinal cord and that I needed to have surgery. Back then I could barely walk and I was in great pain.

Everything happened very quickly. I had no time to understand what was happening to me and, I think that was, somehow, a good thing, because otherwise I could have had a depression. I could not get used to the new situation and I hated the thought that I might be dependent on someone else for life.

At 21 years old, I was a senior at the Faculty of Communication and Public Relations and was dreaming of a successful career. Courses were my main motivation to go on and overcome the obstacles that the disability has brought on. I wanted to get a job but I had no idea if I could do it from a wheelchair. I had no information on disability, I didn’t know how to use a wheelchair and I didn’t want people to see me in that situation.

Three months after I had returned home from the hospital, three members from Motivation Romania Foundation visited me. They invited me at the active rehabilitation sessions that they were organizing. They said they could also change my wheelchair, which wasn’t meeting my needs, with an appropriate one and that they could also provide me training for using the new equipment. At the regional centre of the foundation, I attended a physiotherapy program.

Also, I met an independent living trainer who was also using a wheelchair. He told me about his life in a very friendly way. I liked that and I decided to keep in touch with the team. Then, I participated in training courses on independent living and in an active rehabilitation camp. I spent one week away from home and, of course, from my mother, my overprotective personal assistant. I learned things that I had thought impossible before: to keep my balance on two wheels, to dress by myself and to dance. I am now an active and independent user, I can take care of myself and I can even help others

Today I am no longer a beneficiary, but a member of the Motivation team. I graduated after I started using a wheelchair and my dream of putting into practice what I had learned in school has come true. Now I am part of the communication team of the Foundation. I am also an independent living trainer. I teach them how to live independently, I tell them about the methods I found to overcome obstacles and I feel happy to see that my solutions also work for them.

I think that my disability helped me develop other skills that I had neglected before: the relationship with others and my teaching abilities. I realized that I can do sports and dance in a wheelchair. I love basketball and archery and the competitions that I join motivate me and give me confidence in me and in the capacities that people with disabilities have.