Living with cerebral palsy

Liezel Wellen explains what it is like to have CP

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED: Liezel Wellen with Missy, her Boston Terrier. Picture: SUPPLIED

“When one has a disability it is important to know and understand your limitations. I know mine and so do things at my own pace. My sister-in-law says I have Selectapalsy. But on a serious note, if I feel I can’t do something then I won’t attempt to do it,” says Liezel Wellen.

In the latest instalment of the Fit for Logan challenge, we explore what it is like to be an adult with cerebral palsy and Wellen is one such remarkable person who is my colleague and my friend.

We work for the same company, but in different cities and have only communicated via e-mails and perhaps this is why I only recently learned she has cerebral palsy.

It has not changed my perception of her, as I have always felt that her work ethic is impeccable and I have always enjoyed working with her – her sense of humour is especially welcome when it breaks the tension on deadline days.

When she heard about our campaign, she was quick to offer assistance as she appreciates what we are doing for Logan Bartle and cerebral palsy.

Wellen’s Cerebral Palsy affliction resulted from receiving insufficient oxygen at the time of her birth and could have been avoided if the doctor had been able to perform a caesarean section.

The left side of her body was affected and she walks with a limp or a ‘jig’ and occasionally suffers from the inconvenience of a dislocated shoulder which she has learned to deal with.

She also has a speech impediment, however, as much as it can be difficult for people to understand her, she realises that it is also up to her to pronounce words correctly to ensure proper communication with those around her.

Wellen attended schools for disabled people and post-matric her father, Desmond, enrolled her at Damelin where she first had to endure a series of interviews to assess her coping mechanisms.

“I think that was truly the year that I found myself – Independence at a whole different level,” says Wellen.

“I used to walk from Damelin to my dad’s work (Times Media, now Arena Holdings) and sit and wait until home time.

One day my dad’s boss asked me if I’d like to do some work instead of just waiting. So I was tasked with text inputting for the designers to make up the adverts.”

After completing her studies, Liezel went to New Zealand not long after her brother, Des, had gone to England.

Both siblings would return to South Africa within the same year and they decided to buy a house together.

However, after a time, her brother moved out – and her parents moved in.

“My folks weren’t happy with me living on my own. After many discussions they sold their house and moved in with me! True story. Years later I converted the garage and outbuildings into a flat for myself. We are still living like this,”  says Wellen, “My little pooch, Missy, is a Boston Terrier, and lives with me in my flat. I have always had dogs. There is no judgement from them, only unconditional love. ”

Upon her return from her 3 month sojourn in New Zealand, she was employed in a permanent capacity in the Design Studio and is now in the Admin and Production Department of Arena Holdings, Johannesburg.

Another aspect of her CP is that she startles very easily and has always requested to be seated with her back to the wall which is not always possible, however, her managers have been very accommodating.

So working from home, as Covid-19 has enabled many to do, has been of benefit to her in this regards and also with respect to her driving.

Though more than capable of doing so, driving in the Johannesburg traffic is quite nerve-wracking and Wellen would leave home at 5.30am just to avoid it.

Liezel’s family have always been supportive of her which has probably added to her positive and well-balanced outlook on life as well as her ability to be independent while recognising and dealing with her limitations. Her parents treated her no differently than they did her brother and discouraged her from using the words “I can’t…” and for all of this she is extremely grateful.

Wellen’s brother and sister-in-law, Cheryl, would entrust her nieces, Tyra and Keia, in her care when there was a need for a baby-sitter and she continues to have strong relationships with the now-teenagers who visit her often for chats, sleep-overs, binge TV watching and baking which is a passion of Liezel’s.

This attitude of embracing Liezel for who she is has inspired her and so the following words of hers are from experience,

 “Do not put CP sufferers in cotton wool. Give them independence so that they can function in the big ugly world. It’s not always rainbows and unicorns but you have to try live your life with what you have.“

Cheryl Larsen, Tubs Lingham, Caron Troskie and Wendy Kretschmann have taken up the Challenge to raise funds for Logan and to create awareness about Cerebral Palsy. If you would like to sponsor them per kg lost, click on the link below. All funds raised go towards Logan Bartle’s needs.

The GO! & Express is the official print media sponsor of the Fit for Logan challenge.


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