I’m at home on bed rest currently with bronchitis and yes I shouldn’t be typing this but I was just writing an urgent recommendation on LinkedIn for a business associate and saw that a much awaited segment on SBS’ ‘The Feed‘ had aired. It featured in it, one of the sassiest, mentally toughest, most determined women I know. Her name is Emma Gaffy and she, at the best of times, is a little shy about sharing her story but fortunately I don’t suffer from that same condition so am happy to do it for her.
On Christmas Eve when she was 19, Emma suffered a stroke. She was left with permanent paralysis down her right side and, as a result of medical negligence when swabs were left on her brain during one of the many brain surgeries she suffered through, she developed epilepsy. Emma had to learn to walk, talk and eat again. Her ‘incredibly supportive’ doctors told her that she would no longer ‘lead a normal life’, would likely need a caregiver for the rest of her days and it would be best for all involved if she just checked herself into the nearest ‘home’ [for the disabled]. In short, they told her to give up.
For Emma, the defining moment was not being advised she wouldn’t be able to walk, talk or lead a ‘normal life’ again. It was hearing she would need to wear shoes with VELCRO STRAPS. For a young woman who was very fashion forward, had modeled and had dreams of one day writing for Vogue, this was a deal breaker. So in her mind, she made a commitment to NEVER EVER wear velcro shoes and in doing so, learned to walk, talk and take care of herself again, shocking her doctors with her speedy recovery. So you can see why I, along with many others, are in complete awe of Miss Emma Gaffy.
I want to share a little about Emma’s story and then encourage everyone to watch the SBS segment to help raise awareness for The Stroke Foundation as it’s likely, we’ll all at some stage, be affected by it. Now, without further ado, I take great delight in introducing you to Emma Gaffy….drum roll please….
Meet the Indomitable Emma…
Emma Gaffy is a university graduate, entrepreneur, stylist, world traveler and ‘differently abled’. At age 19, she suffered a severe brain injury, which left her permanently paralyzed on her right side. Regardless, she has never allowed her disability to define her and ten years on, she’s ready to share her inspirational journey with others.
On Christmas Eve 2003, Emma suffered a brain hemorrhage, an event that for 99% of the population would have been fatal. Through sheer will Emma didn’t succumb, however she was left with a permanent paralysis to the right side of her body. Learning to walk, talk and eat again were just some of the challenges Emma experienced in her fight to regain some semblance of “normality”.
Through her journey, Emma has achieved far more being “differently abled” than some who are fully abled. Emma has attended and graduated from University, trekked through the Langtang region of Nepal, fundraised over $20,000 for the National Stroke Foundation, volunteered in an orphanage in Nepal, been nominated for the Pride of Australia Award and launched her own styling and creative services business, No Name Style.
Through her determination, spirit and unwavering belief in herself, Emma has overcome every obstacle her paralysis has thrown at her including multiple operations which have left her weak and in unbearable pain, overcome the development of epilepsy which was a result of mistakes made in her initial surgery and the stigma of living with a disability.
Today Emma lives in Melbourne where she runs her own Public Relations company, writes for her blog One Girl and the Sea, DJ’s and works part-time for The Epilepsy Foundation. Emma’s message for young women who may live with a disability is clear; you don’t have to identify as “disabled”. You can live an amazing life that is full of adventure, challenge and joy, similar to the one Emma is embracing right now.
Emma is an absolute inspiration and is available for modeling, brand ambassador and speaking opportunities where she hopes to inspire other young women who may be experiencing a similar situation. Emma can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click on the image below to watch Emma’s segment on ‘The Feed’.