Half-arm goon! was what one of my best friends at primary school used to affectionately call me! I say affectionately because I don’t ever remember her being mean or unfriendly towards me….
…I was born without a lower left arm and hand. My parents thought it happened as a result of thalidomide, that Mum thinks she took when she was pregnant. It was a legal drug in those days so the doctor was not to blame as it was legitimately given to women, such as my Mum, who felt nauseous when pregnant.
Once Mum had got over the initial disappointment, subsequent tears and lack of compassion from her doctor, who told her to dry her tears and think how lucky she was, considering there were other babies born with far worse afflictions, such as cleft palates, she and Dad then proceeded to give me a wonderful childhood with lots of opportunities to participate in a myriad of activities that able-bodied children would do. Swimming, ballet, bike-riding, playing the piano – just to name a few….
In wanting to provide me with a good education, and also to protect me from boys who Mum thought might bully me, I spent my entire education at a private girl’s school – Firbank Girl’ Grammar where I made some great friends and I loved school.
Around the age of seven, I was fitted with a prosthetic arm at the Royal Children’s Hospital. However, this turned out to be more of a hindrance than a help, and feeling like Captain Hook, I asked Mum if I could go without it, to which she agreed. I remember the feeling of just being natural and free from an awkward silver hook attached to my arm, which I felt everyone would stare at. I have remained this way all my life and although I get asked on numerous occasions about what happened to my arm, I feel very comfortable with how I look and confident in responding to these questions – especially from young children who seem to think I’m going to grow a left hand!!
Learning to play the piano and play tennis were challenges but positive ones and my teachers were very happy to take me on and help me in any way they could. When I finished Year 12 and went on a teacher’s college trip to Mt.Buller, I also added skiing to my list of accomplishments and loved the feeling of racing down Bourke Street with two skis but only one stock in my right hand for balance.
Nowadays, one of my passions (apart from supporting the Saints!!) is Latin dancing, salsa in particular and once I have broken the ice with new male partners in dance classes by saying “Shark Attack” or “Croc Attack” at which they laugh!, they are happy to dance with me and hold both my arms.
Personally, I feel I have achieved many things in my life and feel privileged to have had the unconditional love and support of family and friends, a teaching job I love, good health and an acceptance and love of my body, despite missing a limb, because it’s part of who I am, a unique individual, like everyone else!!