Kumba talks about her experience of being a disabled child in Sierra Leone and after moving to the UK the challenges she faced as a disabled single mum with triplets. Learning to drive with QEF totally changed her life.
Or you can watch Kumba tell her story as part of our BBC Lifeline Appeal video – watch from 2 mins 56
“I got polio when I was 4 years old. I got a fever and felt really sick and lost the feeling in my limbs, although now it mostly affects my left leg and I don’t have much stability. Whilst I can walk short distances with crutches, I rely on my wheelchair to get around.
I grew up in Sierra Leone and they aren’t set up there for disability. There was no public transport that I could access an no accessible houses either -its much harder than here.
When I was pregnant I had to learn how to be disabled again. As I was having triplets my belly was really large so I had to train myself to move differently. I tried to use my crutches as much as possible to avoid blood clots but my balance is weak. Also my spine is twisted so as I got bigger it got more uncomfortable to sit in my wheelchair for long periods. I’m happy I had triplets though, as if I had only had one I wouldn’t have had any more so it’s brilliant really.
Before learning to drive I had to rely on public transport and I had young triplets so the everyday trips, such as getting to school, were stressful. I can’t run for the bus and my chair doesn’t move any faster, so there were occasions when one of my triplets would run ahead to hold the bus until I could get there – even when they were just four and a half!
I really needed to learn to drive so I contacted QEF’s Mobility Services. I had an assessment with an Occupational Therapist who tested my reaction times on a static rig – using hand controls as I can’t move my legs. As I had a good response to this we moved outside, where I drove a car on their private track. This was the first time I’d ever sat behind the wheel of a car and I found some things more challenging than I expected, such as braking when driving downhill.
It was a one-day assessment and then the report, along with my doctor’s letter about the medication I was on, was sent to the DVLA. Once I received my provisional license, I started driving lessons with QEF and eventually after a few years I passed my driving test!
Since then it has been fantastic – it has given me freedom. We don’t have any of the previous stress, we can just get up and go. I don’t have to argue with anyone to get on the bus or ask them to give way for my wheelchair. Now I can get the kids to school on time and I also have a job, which I wouldn’t have been able to keep without driving, as public transport doesn’t fit with the hours I work.
Driving has opened up so much for me – I can drive anywhere I want. It’s changed my life – it’s amazing!”
Find out more about learning to drive with QEF
Watch Kumba tell her story as part of our BBC Lifeline Appeal video – watch from 2 mins 56