Donna’s story

Posted on: 11th December 2014

For the second year in a row, Donna has completed the Race for Life – this time she upped the ante and walked over the finish line. Donna and her support worker Correen talk about fundraising, living independently and achieving Donna's goals.

Donna has cerebral palsy. She grew up in York with her mum, dad, brother and sister but because Donna has specific needs, she went to a special school in Newcastle – a long way away from home. Now Donna lives in her own home in Mansfield and enjoys taking part in fundraising activities for charities - like the Race for Life.

“I did the Race for Life in Chesterfield in memory of my mum. She had cancer and passed away. I raised nearly £100 for Cancer Research and I even walked over the finish line. I’m really proud of myself,” says Donna.

And Donna intends to keep raising the bar: “I’m planning on doing the Race for Life again next year but this time I’ll hopefully do part of it with a walker - I’m in the middle of getting a walker at the moment and my physiotherapist is going to help me learn to use it.”

“I like helping people and I’m looking for voluntary work at the moment,” says Donna. Her support workers, one of whom is Correen who has supported Donna since August 2006, have been helping her in her search. “Donna wanted to do voluntary work helping people – something that she could do on her own without support. It proved to be quite difficult but she has done some charity work for Marie Curie, selling the yellow daffodil pin badges in a supermarket,” says Correen.

“I’m also doing a Macmillan coffee morning at home to help raise money for the nurses,” says Donna. “My support workers will be there and Paul, my other half, is hopefully coming too.”

Donna met Paul 5 or 6 years ago at the day centre in Mansfield she used to attend before it closed down. “I don’t get to see him as much as want to, which is a shame,” says Donna. “He wasn’t able to come to watch me in the Race for Life but he’s seen the photos and he gave me a lovely pearl bracelet to say well done.”

“I can make my own mind up about what I want to do and when I want to do it.”

Donna used to live in her own home with her father and step-mum but after relationships began to break down, she moved out. “I decided I needed to live on my own because living with my dad and step-mum wasn’t working,” says Donna. After a difficult few years living in a residential care centre, Donna finally managed to return home.

“It wasn’t easy and I had some knock backs but I’m happy now I’m living on my own,” says Donna. ”It’s so much better without the restrictions of a care home. I can make my own mind up about what I want to do and when I want to do it; what I want to eat and when I want to eat it – and not have to choose from a menu.”

“She’s much more relaxed now and she takes ownership of things she does more,” says Correen. “She’s got the headspace to be able to think things through, rather than acting in a panic. Her emotions are pretty much on a level, whereas before she was very up and down – we tried to keep things calm around her but it didn’t always work".

In September Donna went to Hollybank for a week for respite without her support workers. Donna had some reservations before the trip: “The first day or so will take a bit of getting used to, not having that one to one support, but that’s what I need.” Though she enjoys spending time away from her support workers, Donna clearly appreciates everything they do for her. “My support workers are really helpful,” says Donna, “they make me a lot more independent."

Donna now takes an active role in developing her support workers. “A young girl joined the team last year and she wasn’t very confident, though she was very good and had a lot to offer,” says Correen. “Donna very quickly picked up on the fact that she wasn’t confident and that it was affecting her work. Donna took ownership of that and really helped her to develop – she’s now one of the more confident members of the team. Donna gives lots of positive praise and encouragement – she would never have been able to do this before because there were too many negative things happening for her.”

“It’s really helped to have consistency in my support team – Correen, Dawn and others have worked with me for a long time,” says Donna. “I don’t know how they put up with me sometimes.”

“Penny, my case manager, has helped me a lot too. A few years ago when I was going though a really difficult time, I needed Penny’s input a lot but now things are better, I don’t need so much support from her – but I know she’s always there if I need her.”

“Penny never leaves any stone unturned,” says Correen, “she’s a very thorough person and it just works for Donna. There’s very rarely anything unexpected, when Donna’s not had the opportunity to think about the ‘what ifs’ with Penny or with her support workers beforehand. Penny’s nursing background has really helped, as Donna has had several medical and health issues, it’s really good to be able to tap into all those years of nursing experience.”

Donna had occupational therapy for a while, when she moved back into her home. The OT worked with her on hand exercises and helping with cooking and other tasks around the home. “Donna’s OT put together parts of the support plan with Donna that were relevant to practical things and moving and handling, such as getting up and washing,” says Correen. “The OT also worked closely with Donna's physiotherapist - the physio worked with Donna on what her body can do, while the OT would look at making things safe for the support team.”

“When you’ve got a disability, you have to be patient and persevere with things.”

“I like to play games like Candy Crush on my tablet,” says Donna, “I enjoy it and it helps my hand-to-eye co-ordination. Also I don’t get as stressed – it takes my mind off things.”

“Donna’s not one for quitting on things, including the digital games she plays – I’ve known her be stuck on the same level for two weeks and she just doesn’t give up,” says Correen. “She’s a fighter and very determined, in all aspects of her life – she’s not one for backing down or giving up.” “When you’ve got a disability, you have to be patient and persevere with things,” says Donna.

Next year, Donna hopes to go to Disney World in Florida, so that she can go on some of the theme park rides. There are not many places in the UK where wheelchair users can access such rides. “I went to Cadbury World and got to go on one of the rides in my wheelchair, which I didn’t expect to be able to do,” says Donna. “It was only a little one – like a car that went round inside a house, but it was good.”

Donna’s goals are now to become even more independent and, when she gets her walker, to use it around the house rather than using her wheelchair. “I know that’s what my mum would have wanted,” says Donna, “she would hit the chuffing roof if she knew I was in my chair all the time.”