Severely disabled childless woman remains positive about life and determined to live it to the fullest

By Nina Steele 

Living with disabilityLife really is what we make of it. Because we have been conditioned to expect certain things, often, when those things don’t turn out the way we planned or when tragedy strikes, some of us just can’t cope. That’s certainly not the case for Shirley Parsons, once a successful solicitor, who by all accounts should have been feeling sorry for herself and given up on life a long time ago.

Indeed Shirley’s life was turned upside down in December 2002 when she had a stroke, aged 42. The stroke resulted in her being paralysed from the neck down and losing her ability to speak. Her condition means that she needs round the clock care, which is provided by two full time carers. One carer works for two weeks straight then takes time off, while the other carer takes over for another two weeks.

Being faced with such a life changing condition meant that Shirley had to choose which way her future was going to go. It was either going to be a life lived with bitterness at her new condition or acceptance. She chose the latter.

Speaking to the Daily Mail (she uses a computer to communicate), Shirley said this about what helped her make sense and accept her new reality: “My former life was busy, noisy, pressurised and stressful, and now it’s quiet, peaceful and calm, with more time to fully appreciate life”. She goes on to say: “I’ve never really considered it before but I probably do feel liberated from the trappings of a normal working life. I certainly appreciate other people more and have time to fully enjoy the important things like being with friends and family. I think I feel a different kind of happiness now, born out of contentment”. Shirley remains married to her husband. The couple have no children by choice.

Her determination to live her life to the full was behind her decision to study for not one, but two Open University degrees. Having studied part-time for an Open University degree myself (it took me 4 years to complete), I know how tough this can be in normal circumstances, let alone for someone with a severe disability. Understandably, she is quite proud of having completed both courses and her graduation certificates are said to be “framed and proudly displayed on the wall”.

Her story is a reminder not only that no one should ever take their life for granted, but also that good things can come out of the worse of situations. She is without doubt an inspiration.

Living with disability

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