A BALLYMONEY teenager, who suffers from severe quadriplegia cerebral palsy, has defied doctors who told her parents ‘not to expect too much from her’.
16-year-old Natasha Hill of Bann Road, Bendooragh was born with the condition which prevents her from standing or walking unaided and she can only communicated by facial expressions, limited sign language and Dynamo communication aid.
However despite her disability confining her to a wheelchair, Natasha lives life to the full and enjoys many hobbies including Open door at Exodus in Coleraine, Scouts in Ballymoney and swimming lessons and the gym at the Joey Dunlop Leisure Centre.
Her mum Andrea explained: “Natasha is amazing and we are very proud of her considering a consultant once told us to take her home, love her, but do not expect too much from her.
“Despite being confined to a wheelchair Natasha loves to get out and about and has many hobbies. She goes swimming every Saturday with the Ballymoney Special Olympic Swimming Club and absolutely loves being in the water. It gives her independence, freedom and the ability to float and move unaided. It also builds up her muscles and strength as well as her confidence. At first she hated getting her face and hair wet but after a while she just didn’t panic about it anymore.
“Since starting lessons in September 2008 she has persevered with it and eventually after two years she can now swim 15 metres unaided and can even do a several lengths with a middle float which is a fantastic achievement.
“Some parents with disabled children don’t encourage them to go to activities. However we have always treated Natasha as ‘normal’ and have always enabled her to take part in any activity she wanted to do.”
In 2009 Natasha even encouraged her mum to lose a staggering 12 stone in weight by joining the Joey Dunlop Leisure Centre.
Andrea continued: “When Natasha started doing swimming lessons at the Leisure Centre I used to go along and sit in the gallery watching her.
“However everytime we would go Natasha would wanted me to go in the pool to but I just kept putting her off. But she never gave up and finally in January 2009, I decided to give it a go - I thought if Natasha could do it then so could I.
“I originally started doing lengths during her hour lesson and then we’d come out together. It was great fun and we both encouraged each other. Within a short space of time I started to lose weight and Natasha’s swimming radically improved.
“At the start of 2011 I decided to join the gym a few nights a week and Natasha wanted to come with me. So every Wednesday night we go to the gym together. While I’m on the cardiovascular machines and weights, Natasha lifts the dumb bells giving her gentle arm exercises. She also motivates me and keeps patting her stomach and laughing - its her way of telling me to keep at it!
“Thanks to Natasha’s encouragement and a lot of willpower I have managed to lose the weight. Natasha is a girlie girlie and loves handbags, fashion, shoes and shopping. Her zest for shopping has rubbed off on me and I really look forward to our shopping trips as I am now able to find clothes to fit me a well. In the past Natasha would have been the one to come home with the shopping bags full of clothes and I wouldn’t be able to find any to fit me. But now Natasha enjoys picking stuff off the rails for me to try on!
“I have radically improved my quality of life and Natasha has been my main inspiration - she’s even got her dad going to the gym now to.
“She’s such a special person, one in a million, and has never let her disability stop her doing things. She’s always happy and when she smiles her whole face lights up - she is a real inspiration to everyone she meets.”
Agreeing one of her swimming instructors at the JDLC Denise Brewster added: “Natasha is a great inspiration. When I first taught her she could swim maybe 2ms on her back unassisted. Now Natasha can swim a half a length of the pool unassisted. She can even do a few lengths with a middle float - which is a massive achievement.
“She is a pleasure to teach and can brighten up even the dullest of days.”