Focusing on abilities not disabilities
Community High Country Herald, South Canterbury, Wednesday 7 March 2007
By Esther Ashby-Coventry
Pareora's Jenny Crawford is an inspiration, not only has she stomped and spat on adversity but she has ascended far above it to live a longheld dream.
In 2004, while working as an activities coordinator at a Timaru resthome at the same time studying to be a diversional therapist, Jenny started getting tingling in her fingers and weakness in her legs. She assumed she was just tired.
The symptoms worsened and eventually she sought medical advice.
"Two large discs in my neck had collapsed and were pressing onto the spinal chord."
After an operation which saw a bonegraft from her hip the specialist told her that she was lucky not to be a tetraplegic.
"Apparently I had fusion of vertebrae from birth, but had no idea."
She had to wear a brace for three months and experienced a loss of sensation on her right side.
"I had to learn to walk all over again."
But far from being justifiably self pitying, Jenny managed the best she could and reminded herself there was always someone worse off.
"I used to visit the residents at the resthome and we'd have races around the car park with our walkers," she laughed with a glint in her eye.
A welcome return to work for light duties was then stymied by an arachnoid cyst.
"At least it wasn't the neck this time it was the spine. If it had been in the brain I would be dead."
Again the bubbly patient considered herself fortunate.
"Whatever the side effects were, I had all of them."
Forced to sit at home at the youthful age of 45, because of terrible fatigue and ongoing rightside weakness, Jenny decided she'd like to grow flowers. She said she was too active to sit at home and do nothing, it drove her up the wall.
"I loved arranging flowers, and had gained a diploma earlier."
Because her husband was working she was not entitled to any benefits and because it wasn't an accident ACC was not relevant.
Workbridge, an organisation which helps those with disabilities overcome barriers and obstacles to work, became her lifeline to the future.
No one else was growing dried flowers in South Canterbury that Jenny knew of so with a grant and support from Workbridge she had three gardens built to specifications which would allow her to tend the 500 plants despite her disability. From growing statice, larkspur and gypsophila then creating dried flower arrangements from home Jenny will soon be going out to work each day. She is opening a shop in Stafford Street this week.
"It is something I can sink my teeth into."
Workbridge employment consultant Sue Sullivan said Jenny knew what she wanted.
"She was very positive. We developed a business plan and offered her guidance to over come physical barriers."
Jenny is really excited about the shop.
"I have a crazy nature, I'm outgoing and love people."
Jenny was assessed by an occupational therapist and Workbridge applied for the $10,000 funding needed to set up garden beds on poles which she could access easily.
"It's all about her abilities not her disabilities," Sue said.
"With a lot of help and support she has done this."
Sue will still be available to Jenny for ongoing support as required.
Jenny the optimist said it was logical to put one step in front of another.
"I hope I can give other people inspiration to go for their dreams."