‘My medication gave me a new disability, but most of the time the only thing that bothers me is people staring without asking questions.’

3 January 2017

Teresa Brooker‘I was starved of oxygen as a baby,’ says Teresa Brooker, ‘and because of that only half my brain works, which has affected me in a few different ways.

‘I have cerebral palsy, which in me means that my right-hand side doesn’t really work.

‘I have epilepsy too. I had my first seizure when I was four. I saw stars. My dad said, “It’s all right, you’re not going to go down.” The next thing I knew, I’d hit the floor!’

We’re speaking at Leonard Cheshire’s Seven Springs day service in Tunbridge Wells. The 32-year-old lives with her mum, but is supported — and supports others — at the home of her ‘second family’ on weekdays.

Find a different way

Her first epileptic episode ‘scared the life out’ of her. It occurred sufficiently long ago that she’s able to talk about it quite matter-of-factly, and with a sense of humour and irony.

Teresa’s life has been packed with more incident than most, however. The epilepsy medication she was prescribed, Vigabatrin, caused her to lose half her sight in the 15 years she was on it.

Despite these setbacks, a relaxed pragmatism permeates our chat.

‘People say, “You can’t do this, you can’t do that”, but I usually can if I find a different way.’

‘Cooking for example,’ she says, as we dig in to the cheese straws she’s made for everyone.

Question and answer sheet

Being stared at for being in a wheelchair is the only thing that unfailingly continues to wind her up.

‘It was constant at school until one day, when I was 13, I decided to write up my own question and answer sheet. I handed it out to everyone.

‘After that it stopped. It was so easy. I have no idea why no-one did it for me [earlier].

‘Parents just don’t talk to their children enough. All it would have taken would have been for them to do some basic research and sat down with their kids.’

‘We're a family’

Teresa thinks the experiences have made her a more caring person.

‘There are 38 of us here. We’re all different. We all love each other, well we try! Sometimes we fall out, but we just get on with it the next day.

‘I help with drinks. I help feed people. I can assist people if they want my assistance. We try to plan and look out for each other.

‘Gina asked me this morning if I’d feed her. I said, "of course I will if you want me to".

‘These are silly little things, but it all helps out. Many of the residents don’t have family, but we’re a family.’

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i have a sister like that

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