Heike Schlemmer is actually shy. But when a hospital stay pulled the rug out from under her, she decided to talk openly about her life with spina bifida on Instagram and campaign for more respect for people with disabilities. Why she came to the hospital, which football club her heart beats for and how she otherwise rolls, she tells us on REHACARE.com.
Name: Heike Schlemmer Age: 28 City: Kreis (district) Neuwied, Germany Occupation: Trained businesswoman for office communication, employee at a medical typing service Impairment: I was born in 1992 with an open back (also called spina bifida). After the back was closed surgically, the hydrocephalus developed, which then had to be treated with a shunt.
Heike Schlemmer: Fortunately, I can say that I have relatively few limitations, I can walk and lead a fairly normal life. In my school years, I attended schools for people with disabilities and did my training in a vocational training centre. I also managed this quite well. I came to terms with my disability very early on and informed myself about it. I had no problems accepting my disability.
When I was on sick leave for six months in 2019 (due to an undiscovered pressure sore/blister that had ruptured and become infected, an infection that had spread throughout my body. I was in hospital for two months at the time and was then at home for another four months) I played with the idea of telling the world out there about myself.
I was never really the type for that, as I am actually a rather shy person. But I couldn't get the idea out of my head. So I started planning my Instagram account around April or May 2019. My account is about spina bifida, hydrocephalus, my everyday life and many other interesting and important topics.
The account has now been around for almost two years and with over 700 subscribers, my own community has grown over time, which I am very proud of. I am also very proud of the fact that I have been able to achieve a very important goal with my contributions: more acceptance and respect for people with disabilities.
Which auxiliary means or daily living aids are indispensable for you?
Heike Schlemmer: My orthopaedic shoes, as I am too unsteady when walking without them. What would you like to see from society and your fellow people in dealing with people with disabilities?
Heike Schlemmer: Less discrimination, more respect and support for people with disabilities.
Which assistive device would urgently need to be invented and/or improved?
Heike Schlemmer: Not devices directly. But I would like to see those who are really in urgent need of devices to get them more quickly and also receive better financial support, so that they do not have to pay for the entire costs.
What has been your biggest challenge so far that you have mastered – and what has helped you to do so?
Heike Schlemmer: As already mentioned in the first question, it was the incident with my foot: I got a pressure sore but didn't notice it and it developed into a major construction site with the result, that I spent almost two months in hospital and had to undergo several operations and examinations. That was the biggest challenge in my life so far. On top of that came the bad news that I had to be prepared for my foot or leg to be amputated. That really pulled the rug out from under me.
Without my family and friends, who stood behind me, I would not have been able to cope and would probably have broken down. It also helped me to talk about it and share my experiences with others.
If nothing would be impossible: Who would you like to meet one day and why?
Heike Schlemmer: Marc Terenzi. I've been a big fan of him since around 2001/2002 and that's not going to change anytime soon. I've had the pleasure of meeting him twice and he's just a great person to talk to.
And the players and the team of Eintracht Frankfurt. My favourite person infected me with the "Eintracht fever" almost six years ago. Since then, I've been a big fan of this club. In 2018, I was at the stadium for the first time and was able to meet the coach and a few players and take photos with them. Since 2019, I can proudly say that I am a member of this great club.
What was your best REHACARE experience?
Heike Schlemmer: Unfortunately, I have not yet visited REHACARE.
What I finally want to say...
Heike Schlemmer: Since I was in hospital in 2019 and was afraid for my health and for my life, I enjoy life all the more and pay much more attention to my health. And I can really advise everyone: Take care of your health and go to the doctor once too often rather than once too little. Enjoy your life as long as you can, because it can change 180 degrees from one day to the next or be over.