‘I don’t understand why people think I am inspirational; it is just me!’
Top Tips from George:
- Make your own hope – it is down to you.
- Make good choices – you decide the path your life takes – the type of person you are and the people around you shape your life.
- Be a positive person – have positive people around you: family and friends.
- Make a difference – talk to young people – they do listen.
- Have goals and ambitions – always strive to get better and have high expectations of yourself.
- Have fun and a laugh – see the funny side.
I met Georgina (or George as she likes to be called) for the first time on Monday 24th July 2017. I was greeted by George and Billy (her brothers 11-year-old Boxer dog) at her bungalow in Eldwick, Bingley. I instantly found George warm, positive, friendly and welcoming and she exudes a strength and optimism.
A mutual friend Suzanne Bennett who owns Mirror Mirror in Bingley, introduced us. I asked Suzanne if she knew of any inspirational people for my blog and podcasts. She mentioned George and told me briefly about her story and the articles that had been written recently. So, I read the articles about her in the Daily Mail from 7 July 2017 and The Yorkshire Post in April 2017. These all covered the accident, her subsequent achievements and her inspirational story. I was astounded at her resilience, her Growth Mindset and Positive attitude towards life that appeared to use of the Law of Attraction. I was intrigued to find out more about this wonderful lady and find out where this attitude to life came from. It has enabled her to overcome some huge obstacles and make some massive achievements in her life.
On 31st August 1998, age 25 George said she decided to get in a car with her boyfriend and the result of that decision was a head-on collision. ‘I got in that car. I had no reason to not get in that car. He decided to show off and race his friend.’
She died at the scene and owes her life to a nurse who was at the scene, she used CPR on George whilst waiting for the emergency services. She was resuscitated five times, suffered a broken neck, and shattered pelvis. Her family were told to expect the worst; at best, she would never walk or talk again. She told me that her palate was paralysed but through sheer determination she has managed to speak and not only that to walk again. She speaks in hushed, hoarse tones however she has no trouble in telling her story, cracking the odd joke and telling some hilarious anecdotes.
Learning to walk
‘I learned to walk three years after the crash. It is a lot better since the Pole. I was determined to show them that I would walk again. I spent years walking on crutches and I just thought I have had enough of this! I still walk with crutches, one day I won’t, don’t know when but I will do it.’
George had a dream she was a Pole Dancer so the next day she researched it. She contacted Hayley at Unique Pole Fitness and never looked back! http://www.uniquepolefitness.co.uk/about-us Hayley gives her homework to do every morning to strengthen her core. ‘I can’t go upside down on my own yet but I am getting there. It won’t happen this year but it will happen. I never thought I would be a pole dancer.’ But she is!
‘Do you find yourself thinking about what happened? Do you ever feel like just giving up?,’ I asked. ‘What is the point! I can’t change that this happened to me. You just get on with what life has dealt you. Things are just different now that’s all.’ This is re-framing the situation, letting go and altering your response to situations so it doesn’t affect you or your future.
This attitude that George demonstrates with ‘I can’t do it yet’ and ‘it will happen’, are self-talk affirmations that many people would find useful. George does not think about using these strategies, it is not learned through self-help books or reading. She puts this down to being around positive people, growing up with parents who gave her support, praised her achievements and modelled a ‘can do’ attitude. She has made her achievements by sheer ‘bloody mindedness’, enjoying a challenge and if someone says you can’t, then George will set out to prove she can!
George has completed in some serious charity challenges such as riding a tricycle hundreds of miles across France, walking, climbing and talking. She has supported and represented charities such as Help the Heroes, STUBS, Jimmy’s ICU, SMARTRisk, and more. In 2005 she walked a mile around Yeadon Tarn and raised £5000; £2500 for Jimmy’s ICU and £2500 for SMARTRisk.
Only 4 weeks ago, she went to Hanson School for Bradford Council to speak about Road Safety and the dangers of racing cars. She also spoke at Bingley Grammar School. ‘That was weird because my old teachers were there and I had them in tears. It is emotional to tell my story. It could affect them (children) and I always cry because I care about it.’
The 19th anniversary of the incident is approaching and George said occasionally the anniversary of the crash upsets her. She agrees that ‘I have the odd day when I think about what could have been but not for long, I don’t feel sad or angry. What’s happened has happened.’ She focuses instead on ‘How my life has changed and what I have done since the crash. I can count on one hand the amount of times I feel like that. I am unusually cheerful and I feel optimistic. I appreciate what people say but I don’t see how I am amazing or inspiring. I am just me. I think I have always been like this. I was brought up to believe that there is no such word as ‘can’t’.’
George says ‘Having positive people around you and supporting you helps you to be confident and more resilient. When I was in hospital with the halo on my head and pelvic fixator. I couldn’t move at all or talk. I remember trying to get my mum to see that I could move the sheet because I could move my foot.’ She said she felt so proud and the recognition of those little steps helped her through her recovery.
High expectations and aspirations
‘My aim now is the Olympics for Pole; I am going to make Hayley proud! They are trying to make it an Olympic sport. I still have the tricycle in the garage but I prefer to concentrate on my Pole.’
George has new goals and high aspirations – she is always moving forward and setting herself new targets to achieve. She sets realistic goals towards a high expectation and that is what makes life worthwhile. It gives us a purpose and a goal to work towards. I look forward to watching George in the Paralympics in 4 years’ time!
‘My mum and dad would never show me how upset they were. Once in hospital I couldn’t talk and I mouthed when I was in hospital ‘what if’ to my mum and she wiped the floor with me – she said never say that. You just get on with it as best you can do.’
‘After the articles were written in the Yorkshire Post and Daily Mail. I read all the comments and they were lovely – ‘you are an inspiration, you are amazing,’ etc. but I am just me. I just get on with it.’
She talked about some extremely painful nerve tests she had to endure. ‘I had electrodes attached to me. My mum was squatting at the end of the bed with finger puppets of a reindeer and Santa. She was distracting me and making it fun. I didn’t feel the pain. We make everything funny. I tell crap jokes and I think they are funny. I am very close to my mum and since the accident we are even closer. We always have a laugh.’
Routine and busy life
I asked George about her routine and what her day looks like. She said ‘I get up at 5.30 and have breakfast. I let that settle then I do my homework (pole exercises). I have a shower and on Monday and Tuesday Liz (Georges carer) comes and helps me with shopping and housework. Monday I go to the pole lessons with Hayley. I go to Pole three times a week, I have a personal trainer two times a week at home, beauticians, hair, chiropodist & general things, bed about 10.30 pm.’ She also goes out with friends and family for meals, drinks, shopping and clearly has a busy active life. This must be a part of what keeps George going, the more we do the more we are capable of.
‘I started driving in 2004. I didn’t have to retake my test but I had to be assessed. I did a simulator and they tested my reaction times. I can’t walk so this has given me my independence. I can get places and I can meet people. It’s nice to be able to do things that other people do. I don’t understand people who stay in at home all day in their wheelchairs. I would be bored rigid!’
Always seeking out a challenge George is going on her 5th holiday in December despite some interesting experiences the past four times!
The first holiday was a cruise from the Bahamas. She flew there fine without any issues but on the ship there were two disabled rooms. ‘The guy next to me, decided he was going to become my stalker! I spent the holiday avoiding him and going to the pool at 7am because he came out at 1pm. I watched the first Harry Potter film over 8 times! I was by the pool and my bikini top broke and I had a nose bleed! I flashed at him and bled everywhere but that didn’t stop him!’ Then someone jumped overboard, they were ok, just bruised but it caused a five-hour delay to the airport. ‘There wasn’t anyone to help with my suitcases, then the restaurant was self-service (pretty difficult in a wheelchair!) and on the airplane, I was ignored when I requested help to get to the toilet or get back to my seat!’
The second holiday was to the Bahamas. On the airplane, I said ‘I am sorry I can’t move’ to the man next to me but he continuously pushed past me. He went on to pick his nose and eat the whole flight! The taxi driver was one armed which was fine, until the driver decided answered his phone! Then the car broke down. ‘I went to go ‘drown’ with the dolphins.’ She laughs, and the people were talking to her like she was an idiot because a woman had told them that she couldn’t talk. Finally, at the airport, the airline lost her wheelchair and then asked ‘do you really need it?! I need it for my mobility, I am unable to manoeuvre without it.’
The third holiday was in Tenerife. The hotel was supposed to be 100% wheelchair accessible. However, the ramp to her room was nearly a 90-degree angle. ‘I got bored waiting to get helped out of my room so tried to get out on my own and tipped backwards, luckily a couple came to my rescue!’ The manager was called Jesus but didn’t see the funny side when she passed comment about not working miracles. ‘I got a mobility scooter it was the size of a double decker bus. I decided to go full throttle over bridge and flew over it! The waiter’s faces were a picture!’
The fourth holiday in Lanzarote. ‘I got stuck in toilet and then pulled the sink off the wall. The scooter then broke down half way across a main road, I was nearly killed by a bus but a man rescued me!’
This December will be her fifth holiday alone. She is going to Cancun, Mexico. These previous holidays have not put her off, quite the opposite she has laughed about some of the negative experiences. She is hoping this time it is going to be ok! ‘This time it’s either going to work or be another story!’
It was a pleasure to meet George and I look forward to hearing about her holiday and work towards the Pole Paralympics!