Vasanthe’s breaking stigma around physical disability

VASANTHE Subramaniam, of New Town, recently stepped out of her comfort zone to participate in a sports activity day at Redbanks, Nugent.

Rheumatoid arthritis and a dislocated hip – which was initially not discovered by doctors – have left Ms Subramaniam in a world of pain since she was a young girl.

“After having two hip replacements, the pin the doctors put in my hip broke, and the surgeon just said, ‘oh its nothing to worry about’,” she said.

“Within two weeks, I re-dislocated my hip, and went on to keep dislocating it more and more throughout the year.

“The doctor seemed positive that it was nothing too serious to worry about.”

Ms Subramaniam went back to the doctor and was given a brace to wear to try and keep her hips aligned and minimise the risk of re-dislocation.

“After 12 months, the doctor did a more thorough inspection of my hip and said, sorry, there’s nothing else we can do because you don’t have any more bone to work with,” Ms Subramaniam said.

“The doctors then took the remaining bone out of my hip, so now I am missing a joint bone.”

The experience left Ms Subramaniam in a wheelchair, in pain and without full use of her legs.

Despite this, she said she still had a strong sense of resilience and courage within herself, which helped her in her daily life.

“Because I’m now in a wheelchair, it’s so difficult for me to be able to do things I could’ve done in the past,” she said.

“Going from being someone who can walk to someone who can’t, it’s so important for me to have a positive mindset.

“I, like most people, get down in the dumps about it sometimes, but I tell myself I need to try to not let it affect me.

“I need to make that extra effort to keep doing things like I used to before.”

Ms Subramaniam and eight others from around the Hobart area travelled to Redbanks to participate in a series of competitions, organised by Hobart local and former teacher Faezeh Parkes.

Ms Parkes created the activity day to encourage connectedness within the community of all ages, shapes, sizes, races, abilities and cultures.

At Redbanks, the group were organised into two teams, affectionately named the ‘Rambunctious Youths’ and ‘Delinquent Seniles.’

The teams competed against each other in archery, axe throwing, slingshots, clay shooting and other Redbanks activities.

Ms Parkes wanted to show the group that through team work and fun activities, strangers within the same community could form new, long-lasting friendships.

“I think this kind of opportunity is really amazing, because I know I have the chance to participate and make new friends, despite my disability,” Ms Subramaniam said.

Ms Subramaniam said there had been some days where she stayed in her bedroom, not wanting to face the world.

“Although I know that I am accepted by myself and others, I feel like there are some times when I am not,” she said.

“Sometimes people think that if you’re in a wheelchair, there’s no need for you to go anywhere.

“But we also want to enjoy the normal, everyday, going out things that other people enjoy.”

Ms Subramaniam said the day was a great way to meet some new people and to get to learn more about her own strengths and weaknesses.

“It’s a learning, social and physical activity experience which has helped me to learn that there is so much I can achieve.”

Caption: Vasanthe Subramaniam, of New Town, put aside her disability and focused on her abilities at a recent social community activity day at Redbanks.

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