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Colleen’s story about her determination to get to go to the prom- a heartwarming and inspiring story of how courage and determination can overcome the odds!

Hi I am Colleen and I am 17. I reside in Pa and suffer with the lovely condition of POTS. I also have mitochondrial disease, which is a fun one too. I have to admit it has been a tough 3 years since my diagnosis but I strive to live as normal of life as I can (you know cause 2 months recently in the hospital is SO normal haha) Anyways. Even though I have a chronic illness I try to live laugh and love to the fullest. Recently I did get asked to my high school prom. And here is my story to that. One day I was sitting in my hospital (the usual lol) and found out that my prom was going to be in April. I have been out of school for 2 ½ years. So I started looking all over the internet for a dress (mind you I didn’t even have date yet). I was determined to go if it was the last thing I would do.
To “normal people”, if that’s what they call themselves, I may look desperate but I didn’t care. I wanted to be able to actually do things every teenage girl looks forward to. Well anyways I mass-emailed, texted and called my entire contacts list searching for a date. When I almost gave up hope, I happened to get an email from my friend Steve who I have not seen in 2 years. The email wrote “Colleen would you do me the honor of accompanying me to the prom.” My heart melted. That week I went out to find a dress. It was perfect. My prom is April 9th and I’m so excited. I would like to let you all know that it is possible to live to the fullest even though we have a chronic illness. There is hope that things will get better. You just have to believe. Even though I may have to sit through the entire prom, I get to go and feel like a princess like we all, and I mean ALL we deserve to be, healthy or not! <33

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The only way I can actually survive for a few hours of shopping is to be in a wheelchair, a decision that I do not make lightly as I am never comfortable with it. I feel guilty that I’m using something that wheelchair dependent people rely on, who can’t walk at all.
But I bit the bullet and hired one. I was with my friend Anna, who thankfully stuck by me and when my arms were aching from pushing myself she pushed me around too.

The first reaction I had from people was pity. Obviously nobody knew that I was able to get up and walk around, but that was the worst and most annoying reaction. When we asked to push past in a shop or to get into a lift, it’s like everyone cleared the way as if they didn’t want to touch me or look at me.

The second reaction was of just a pure stressed out shopper! It’s like the woman with the buggy syndrome where they try and push through and everyone gets pissed off because she acts like she owns the street/supermarket aisle/shop floor.
Also people who walk along and suddenly stop for no reason. If you’re walking it’s annoying enough, but when you’re pushing yourself along and have to slam on the brakes and if by chance you hit the back of their legs, then they start having a go!

I am thankful that I do not have spend every day of my life in a wheelchair and I can now see why sometimes people who are disabled get angry and defensive with the general public. They are just ordinary people, leading as much of an ordinary life as they can. They are no less of a human than any of the rest of us and deserve to be treated with respect.

There are some people out there though who are absolutely lovely though. I was in Boots (the pharmacy) and the lift was broken so the security guy got one of their staff to push me all the way round to the service lift and personally took me to where I wanted to be.

Also, I was in Superdrug (another pharmacy type place) and the queueing system by the tills is snaked around but is not wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair. So some random guy just moved the entire display out of the way for me to get round. I did feel very guilty as I could have just got up and walked around, but I was doing my ‘undercover research’ too. I’ve actually written to the shops in question to explain that they are not wheelchair friendly.

There was a moment in Habitat (a homeware shop) where the aisles were so narrow that the wheel knocked a tower of glasses but thankfully it was sturdy enough not to come crashing down!

Since that outing, I’ve been out several times in the wheelchair, it’s actually a great help, especially when I don’t know what I’m going shopping for. If I know that I need something specific from a shop, then I’ll go there and then straight home and I’m ok. But out local shopping mall is massive and just to walk from the bus stop to the entrance is a complete trek! I do try and shop online, but then you end up paying for delivery and waiting days for something. I much prefer to go out and try and feel a bit more normal, by browsing around the shops.

If hiring a wheelchair means that I can stay out for longer and give two fingers up to Pots for the day, then I’m happy. I can’t sit for long at the moment, but when I can I will make the most of it.
Just think that nothing is impossible with Pots, there is almost always a way around things, so don’t ever give up!