Psychotherapy and Training Collective of New York

Hannah Same Both Ways

by Hannah Rose
Indepenpress Publishing Ltd (April 29, 2013)
Submitted by Naomi Miller, Ph.D., LCSW

This is a book written, or rather dictated, by a young women who, at the age of fifteen, was diagnosed with transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal chord that left her paralyzed from the neck down. This followed experiencing severe pains in her shoulders and back just as she was preparing to go on a school trip to France.

That was thirteen years ago. Hannah grew up and still lives in the North of England, the eldest of three daughter of a biologist father and special education mother. She was never to see her bedroom again on the second floor of their home. When she finally came home from the hospital fifteen months after her first of many subsequent hospitalizations, her parents hadturned their garage into a room for Hannah who now needed twenty-four hour care. This was provided by Complex Care, a division of England’s National Health Service that provides continuing care beyond the hospital. One cannot but wonder how she might have fared in theUnited States.

In a very matter of fact manner Hannah describes the evolution of her ability to deal with her condition, helped enormously by loving family and friends. In fact her voice in the book is interspersed with comments by family members, friends and the many professionals who helped her along the way. She describes how she and her family’s sense of privacy was forever intruded upon as well as her periodic bouts of depression and hopelessness. She also goes into great detail of what a day looks like, how she has to be dependent on others to help her with the most intimate of bodily functions. And yet this is not a depressing book, but rather a profound manifestation of the human spirit. Hannah’s continuing zest for life and sense of humor, even under the most dire of circumstances, is inspirational.

Hannah finally returned to her High School where they had installed a ramp to accommodate her wheelchair. She went on to college where she obtained a double major in Film and Television Studies combined with Crime Studies. With the aid of a voice activated computer with a specially adapted mouse that she moves with her chin she currently works as a vetting officer at the local Police Station checking peoples criminal backgrounds. She goes away on vacation with her family, even flies, albeit accompanied by many necessary appurtenances including a ventilator. She sings weekly in a local choir, has a passion for football, fashion, the ‘telly’ and now even goes clubbing with her friends. She never thought she would be able to make new friends now she was not ‘normal’ and held off using a far more effective electric chair rather than a manual one for two years, not wanting people to see her as disabled. Currently she has started giving talks in schools, to professionals as well as other disabled people and recently became a mentor. She also talks lovingly about Bella her dog who had been such a loving companion for so many years.

She ends the book with “Just as my name is spelt the same both ways so I have remained the same person both ways, able-bodied and disabled.” Hannah will soon be celebrating her thirtieth birthday which her mother says she wants to celebrate by coming to New York. “It will be very challenging,” says her mother “but, knowing Hannah, she will find a way.” I hope she does.

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