Walking to the Stars
A story about Donna's dream to walk.
My name is Donna. I am 47 years young. I am strong. I am determined. I have a great sense of humour and love a laugh. I love music and food, and someone tells me I can’t do something, it makes me want to do it all the more.
When I was born, the doctor said I was not breathing, and because of that, some parts of my brain were not working. Parts like the bit that controls my speech, and my walking. The doctor said I had Cerebral Palsy.
When I was 5, I was in a wheelchair, and the doctor at the Children's hospital said I should wear callipers. He said this might help me to be able to walk. That seemed like a good idea, as I really wanted to be able to walk. I saw my friends walking and I wanted to walk too.
The special school I was going to said no. They said, I would never walk anyway, so why would I bother. These people, these experts, were telling my mum and telling me that I had nothing to hope for. It made me so sad and I thought my heart would break. I still remember how this felt. It still makes me want to cry. Why would someone, who calls themselves a professional, why would they kill a young person’s dreams?
I had a really great Nan. She was the best. She always told me, "Don’t listen to what they say!" She always said, "I know one day you will walk!". That is something I have never forgotten. My motto came from her. "Never give up on your dreams!" No matter what people say to me I will never give up.
So, thanks to my Nan, I didn’t listen to them. Because I am strong. Their words didn’t make me give up. Their words made me strong. Even way back then, I knew one day I would walk. Thanks Nan!
In my family I have mum and dad and one brother and two sisters, and of course my mum's gorgeous mum, my Nan. My dad wasn’t a very nice man. He physically and emotionally abused me until I was 17. He called me lots of bad names, and he did lots of really bad stuff to me… But that’s enough about him.
I don’t think I ever really had much therapy at school. I had no support and no one ever encouraged me to walk. I don’t think I ever had any choice in what I did there either. I have some good memories of school though. I made some friends I still have today.
But there were bad times too. Like being told I wouldn't ever walk and never getting any help to walk. But what they didn’t know is that this just made me stronger.
I went to the special school until I was 22 years old. Too old to be at school still, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I had no choices about what was out there for me to do. I was just told where I was going. Mum had no choices either. Mum got really upset that there were no choices for me.
The experts, those same ones who told me I couldn’t walk. They were deciding what I should do next. They didn’t know me, but they got to make all the choices.
So, one day I was at school and the next day I was at DMH a day service in Armadale. It wasn’t my choice, and no-one talked to me about it. DMH was an old place, and it was pulled down years ago. I had a special friend there called Gabrielle, but I haven’t seen her in years.
It was a terrible time… I was so scared. I don’t mean scared of being at DMH but scared because no-one told me what was going on or where I was going. Everyone else was making decisions and I got no say. Around this time my dad also died. I had mixed feelings about this. I was glad he couldn’t hurt me anymore, but I was also sad…he was my dad.
When I left home, I had a couple of years in respite. This was terrifying. People came in and they left. But not me. I stayed and stayed. And again, I had no choices. I never knew what was going on or where I was going. Then a house came up in Box Hill. I was so excited. I already knew one of the people who lived there. She was my friend from school. I was so happy to finally have a home of my own. She is still my friend today. I left my DMH and changed to Ringwood. I am still there now. Ringwood is a Scope Day Centre, it is really ace, the staff help me a lot.
When I first got to Ringwood, I didn’t tell anyone about my dream to walk. I didn’t know people there; I didn’t know if they would laugh at me and tell me it wasn’t possible. It was a physio that made it happen. She helped me start walking. I had a frame that I walked in. Staff helped me and I walked whenever I could. My dream back then was to walk down the red carpet at the Arias with The Living End. They were my favourite band.
I still like the Living End, but now my dream is to walk down the red carpet and into the arms of Trent Bell from the Collective. I have had times where I walk a lot and times when I didn’t walk much. It is hard, staff change, dreams get lost. I never lost my dream, but sometimes it is hard to get support from staff. At the moment, I walk every week. While we have been writing this, I remind everyone that I want to walk.
“I have a dream and I will never give up on my walking.”
About 7 years ago, I started exercising at a Leisure Centre in Ringwood. I hoped I could build up my strength and my muscles. I did lots of exercises using the balls and weights to build up my muscles to help me be able to walk. Then I took my big old walking frame down and I could walk around on the basketball courts. It was perfect, big space and flat surfaces. But unfortunately this didn’t work out. I was asked to move to a different space, and this had carpet and it was very hard for me and my staff, so we sort of gave up.
So back at my day support, the staff helped me to walk. But because the walking frame is so big the best place to do this was out on the street. I don’t know what the neighbours thought. It was pretty hard, but I never gave up. I ended up having to buy my own walking frame. More changes, more staff…and me all this time saying, ‘I want to walk.’ I want to walk. This all took years!
We finally got the walking frame on 3rd October 2017. You could hear my delight from miles away! My walker is called, RED MOON EDNA. Red is the colour of the walker. Blue Moon was my Nan's favourite song. Edna is a female version of Ed Sheeran. I love my singers almost as much as my walking.
I love using my walking frame. But it is very very tiring and takes so much energy. I sweat like a crazy woman. Oops, sorry too much information!
Over the past year, I went back to the gym. Then I found swimming is better than the gym. I swim with weights on to help make me stronger. If I don’t have the weights on my feet, they won’t go to the bottom of the pool. My staff are pretty cool and think of crazy ways to help me strengthen up my muscles. Sometimes I think my staff are as crazy as me, but in a good way.
So now, finally I am walking regularly. I might not be doing laps around Albert Park Lake, but I am doing really well. My staff are awesome and are always supporting me, and I have had some important people who I have always looked up too.
It started with my Nan. She was really special. Her name was Dot. But there are some people on TV and radio who I also looked up to. There was a character on Home and Away… Did I tell you I used to love Home and Away? There was a character called Aiden that I relate to. He went through really bad stuff as a kid and I could relate. This helped me as I thought I was the only one, but then I found this really cute guy, and yeah, I know, he is just some guy in a TV show. It isn’t real, but I could relate. It made me understand that just cos bad stuff happens to you as a kid, it doesn’t mean good things can’t happen for you later. I hadn’t thought about that before.
You might think it is crazy that I could find help from someone who wasn’t real. Just a TV character but it really helped me a lot! He was a great man and he was so positive, and this helped me. I still watch this actor. His name is Todd Lasance.
I have lots of people I really like Smallsy on Nova FM. Trent Bell who is the lead singer of The Collective. When the band split up, he continued with his solo career and people told him he wouldn’t make it, but he has made it. He never gave up.
My mum Tharon has helped a lot too! She was my protector. She had her ups and downs, but she was always wanted good things for me.
I am on a plan with the NDIS, which has been great for me too. It has helped me dream really big. I am thinking about studying. I would like to be able to talk to other people who have been abused. I want to tell people, ‘don’t give up… always follow your dreams!’. I want to talk to children with disabilities and tell them to never give up.
Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do. Never give up. If it is your dream, follow it!
I think my life will be great now. I have more choices. I have more say in my life. I have more say in my staff and supports. I get to choose.
This year I even did the Melbourne Marathon, and I want to do it every year. The walk is 5 kilometres. I did most of the walk in my wheelchair, and then changed into Red Moon Edna to cross the finish line.
It made me feel really proud. I want to do this each year and walk a little bit further each year. I want to finish by saying I hope this inspires you to do what you want and follow your own dreams! No dream is too big!