Sunday, June 28, 2009
Disabled Woman 'Powerless To Help' Frustrated Surfers.
Monday 29th June, Burleigh Heads QLD. – 24-year-old Quadriplegic Stephanie Johnson claims she is still coming to terms with a recent excursion to Burleigh Heads park late last week.
Ms Johnson – Wheelchair-bound with Spina Bifida since the age of five and whose every living function requires special assistance – was shuttled with two other severely disabled companions from their austere institution to spend an hour and a half staring out to sea from Burleigh Headland.
“While it was a treat to get some fresh air, I couldn't help but be concerned and upset at the distress many of the surfers seemed to be in,” she told your reporter, who visited her at the care facility..
Ms Johnson, who has no movement in her limbs and who is not likely to live past 30, tried to be philosophical as she recounted the trauma faced by the brave surfers who battled the hardships of not getting every wave they wanted.
“There was alot of swearing and anger out there, it was worse than in any hospital ward I've ever been in.
“If there was some way I could have reached out and helped those poor fellows, but I couldn't – hey, I can't even wipe my own arse!” she chuckled good-naturedly.
Sensing this reporter's discomfort at her arse-wiping quip, Ms Johnson quickly qualified her comments, saying “look, I know that's an insensitive thing to say, given the seriousness of the issue at hand – from what I saw, these surfers desperately need more waves to maintain a dignified quality of life.
“It makes you wonder about all those millions of dollars raised for research into conditions such as Cystic Fibrosis, Multiple Sclerosis, Schizophrenia, Cancer, etcetera, when clearly so much suffering is felt so keenly out in the water by these poor souls.
“I think the authorities should at least try to do something – I don't know, perhaps divert some funds away from medical research and towards trialling an artificial reef program – or at least counselling for those hardest hit by the condition of not getting every wave they want.
“The key here is not to give up hope – to hang on to the thought that maybe in this lifetime, by some miracle, this condition can be met head on.
“The funny thing is, I'd happily swap places with a surfer – just for an hour – to give them some blessed relief.
“This may sound bizarre, but I think I might actually enjoy the experience myself, I don't believe I'd even feel the need to catch a wave.
“I suspect I'd be quite content to paddle around, with my arms and legs doing what my brain told them to do, feeling the sun and the saltwater on my skin – even doing that duckdive thing through the waves – might make a nice change from the wheelchair and the bed.”
Tired from the effort of talking, Ms Johnson indicated she was ready to return to her favourite spot – a large window looking inland to the Gold Coast's domestic sprawl – where she would spend the afternoon alone with her thoughts until a rostered carer came to feed, change and put her to bed.
As she was wheeled away, Ms Johnson implored your reporter to “Tell all the surfers out there. Stay strong! It might be hard to imagine, but there's always someone who's had less waves than you!”